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Dr Jorge O Galante

February 15, 2017
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Dr. Jorge O. Galante, a pioneer orthopedic surgeon, inventor, and professor who revolutionized the science of joint replacement, died on February 9 in his home on Sanibel Island, Florida. He was 82.

Galante's orthopedic career spanned nearly six decades. At the time of his death, he was a life trustee and the Grainger Director Emeritus of the Rush Arthritis and Orthopedic Institute at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Galante joined Rush (previously known as Presbyterian-St. Luke's) in 1972 as the first chairman of its newly established Department of Orthopedic Surgery. He stepped down as the chairman in 1994. Over the years, he made Rush home to the top orthopedic program in Illinois, as well as one of the top programs in the United States.

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An exceptionally talented surgeon himself, Galante nurtured generations of orthopedic surgeons and scientists at Rush, many of whom still practice today. However, it was as a clinical and translational researcher focusing on biomaterials, porous metals, and biomechanics that he transformed joint replacement surgery.

While participating in patient care, he told Orthopedics Today in 2014, I soon realized there were too many questions for which there were no good answers There were serious problems affecting millions of people and few valuable solutions. From my viewpoint, the allure of tackling unresolved issues of that magnitude was irresistible.

Galante's pioneering contributions came on multiple fronts. He developed a cementless implant alternative: a titanium fiber mesh that, when used as a porous coating on joint replacements, allowed for the growth of adhering new bone into implants, providing stability. This revolutionized joint replacement surgery.

Utilizing that innovation, Galante collaborated with biomechanical engineers, industry leaders, and other orthopedic surgeons in the 1980s to create innovative artificial joints that worked better, lasted longer, diminished postoperative pain, and helped patients recover more rapidly. Indeed, joint replacements used today are based on elements in his designs.

His acumen in orthopedics even impacted the animal world when, in 1986, he performed a bilateral hip replacements on Beta, a 25-year-old female gorilla at the Brookfield (Ill.) Zoo. Beta had lost use of both legs due to arthritis. The surgery was successful, and Beta lived another 22 years pain free.

The second of three sons, Jorge Osvaldo Galante was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 18, 1934. Educated through medical school in Argentina, he immigrated to Chicago in 1958 where he interned at Michael Reese Hospital. While at Michael Reese, in 1960, he met and eventually married Sofija Kabliauskas, who had emigrated from Lithuania, and they remained together for 50 years until her passing in 2010.

Galante completed his residency in orthopedics in 1964 at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago. From 1964 to 1967, he studied as a research fellow at the University of Goteborg in Sweden, which awarded him a Doctorate of Medical Science. Returning from Sweden in 1968, he worked at the University of Illinois Hospital until being appointed chairman of orthopedics at Rush in 1972.

His love and passion for orthopedics stayed with him until just days before his passing, as he continued to be actively involved, together with lifetime colleagues, in the design and development of a new knee implant. He also loved wine, and invested in an Argentine winery with his son, Charles. He was a voracious reader, enjoyed travel, loved his German Shepherd dogs, and was an avid follower of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

For the last 20 years, he also pursued his passion of the Peruvian Paso horse, a unique breed he bred, raised and showed from his farm in Clinton, Wis. He spent endless hours trail riding through the woods and fields of his farm, always with one of his loyal German Shepherds alongside.

Galante had been vacationing on Sanibel Island with his family since 1972, and by the late 1990's called Sanibel his home, splitting time with his Wisconsin farm. He enjoyed the Island's wildlife, was a steadfast supporter of Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (C.R.O.W.), had a special affinity for ospreys, and walked miles of beach daily, again, with one of his German Shepherds always by his side.

Galante is survived by his son, Charles, and four grandchildren, Connor, Quinn, Tyler and Eloise, all of Darien, Conn.; his brother, Juan Carlos Galante, of Buenos Aires; and his step-daughter, Regina Benson, of Golden, Col. He was predeceased by his older brother, Albert, in 2005.

He will be buried in a private family ceremony. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in his memory to C.R.O.W.

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