The World Says Good-bye to Christian Guilleminault, Sleep Pioneer
Christian Guilleminault (1938-2019) It is with great sadness we announce the passing of Dr. Christian Guilleminault (“CG” as he was known by colleagues) on July 9, 2019, from complications due to metastatic prostate cancer. Dr. Guilleminault died peacefully at the age of 80 with his wife, Priscilla Grevert, by his side. Dr. Guilleminault’s two sons, Eric Guilleminault (Scottsdale, Arizona) and Damian Guilleminault (Paris, France) were with him in his final weeks.
Dr. Guilleminault is famous for his involvement in the first classification and identification of sleep disorders. His groundbreaking research in the areas of sleep apnea, pediatric sleep disorders and narcolepsy made him a leader in the field of sleep medicine and research. It was his life’s mission to develop and bring awareness of this new field–the creation of sleep medicine.
Dedicating his life to advancing the science and clinical practices of treating sleep apnea and sleep related conditions, Dr. Guilleminault touched the lives of patients and colleagues, and remains a pioneer in the field of sleep medicine worldwide. Throughout his career, Dr. Guilleminault mentored hundreds of physicians and scientists.
From the Sleep Community
Dr. Stacey Quo (United States), along with many colleagues and former fellows, were with the Guilleminaults during CG’s last days. She states, “CG guided and developed the careers of countless health professionals, not only in medicine, but in dentistry and other allied health professions. The world knows CG for his visionary brilliance, but it was his commitment to caring for his patients that was his impetus. He continually advocated for patients, with his plea, ‘We must see the children and we must treat them.'”
Dr. Dalva Poyares (Brazil) says, “CG dedicated his life to sleep medicine. Once he told me ‘I will work until my death,’ and so he did. He was one of the pioneers who fought for the creation of a society with a main mission to educate sleep physicians worldwide. He envisioned that day would come; he lived to watch it. His dreams came true, and the dreams of many others.”
“Christian Guilleminault was instrumental in sleep medicine and research,” says Allan O’Bryan, Executive Director of World Sleep Society (founded by World Association of Sleep Medicine and World Sleep Federation). “His involvement in advancing sleep education worldwide is unmatched, as he acted as Program Chair in multiple years, as well as our past president. He will be greatly missed by the international sleep medicine community.”
President of World Sleep Society, Dr. Charles Morin, states, “Christian Guilleminault was a pioneer of modern sleep medicine. He will be remembered for his numerous contributions to advance our field of sleep research and sleep medicine and for training hundreds of sleep health-care practitioners around the world. He epitomized the multiple roles of a dedicated sleep clinician, researcher, and educator. We may have lost a giant in the world of sleep today, but his legacy to our field will remain for many years to come.”
Dr. William (Bill) Dement (United States), a fellow pioneer in the field of sleep medicine, states, “Christian Guilleminault changed the world. When he joined the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic with his incredible energy and intellect, he truly put Sleep Disorders Medicine on the map. He was among the first to recognize obstructive sleep apnea and to describe central sleep apnea. He designed protocols for their diagnoses and treatment. I feel extremely fortunate to have had Christian as a colleague and friend. Our collaboration was invaluable to me, both professionally and personally. He tried unsuccessfully to teach me to speak French–that was my fault, not his. He was a beloved supportive mentor to hundreds of new fellows, a founding editor of the journal Sleep, and a dedicated clinician who really preferred to score all the records himself. Finally, Christian did more to put Sleep Disorders Medicine on the world stage than anyone else. I feel extremely fortunate that he joined me at Stanford. I will cherish his memory, as should tens of thousands of sleep disorders patients.”
Dr. Oliviero Bruni (Italy) of the International Pediatric Sleep Association (IPSA) says, “The are no words to depict adequately the enormous contribution of Christian Guilleminault to the field of pediatric sleep medicine. He was not only one of the greatest scientists in our field, but an inspiring figure for all sleep researchers all over the world. I remember him not only as a scientist, but as a guide for my first steps in the field, as I met him at the School of Sleep Medicine in Stanford in 1992 for the first time. At the beginning, Christian was a myth to my eyes and, at that time, I could not have even imagined that I would collaborate with him later to build up IPSA. I have been the President of IPSA, but no decision was made without asking and hearing his opinion. The pediatric sleep community has lost a great scientist, teacher, and friend. I feel honored to have done this with him.”
Past President of World Sleep Society and colleague at Stanford, Dr. Clete Kushida, says, “CG’s perseverance and dedication to the field of sleep, scholarship, and trainees were inspiring; he would often be the first to arrive and the last to leave. His sharp wit and joke of death by “guillotine” for those whom did not meet his high expectations for clinical care and scholarship were met with shared humor. He will be missed.”
Incoming President, Dr. Bigit Högl, of World Sleep Society added, “Although never a fellow with him, CG became one of my most important teachers when I started to read in detail his superior book chapters and manuscripts. He had such a unique way to explain complex situations, and make accessible to all. Later, I had the opportunity to observe how CG was always available for calls from his colleagues in other parts of the world, and trained fellows from all over the world, and remained in contact with them. He contributed so much to really advance sleep medicine and sleep health worldwide.”
“I was with him in the days before he passed,” states Dr. Rafael Pelayo (United States), a colleague from Stanford. “I was told his last words were, ‘Open the wine.’ What a testament to how we should celebrate him. When I started working with CG in 1993, I was struck how he treated each patient with the interest and curiosity as if he was seeing sleep apnea for the first time. He had seen countless patients, but still never seemed to lose his fascination with sleep apnea or his interest in helping his patients. Dr. Dement and I believe that he changed the world.”
An outpouring of support flooded the sleep community upon Dr. Guilleminault’s illness being announced to the public in June. For those looking for a way to honor Dr. Guilleminault with a memorial, sentiment or personal statement, please visit the CaringBridge page created in his honor. In step with the work most important to Dr. Guilleminault, the ASAA (sleepapnea.org) will continue his passion and vision towards early recognition of sleep apnea in pediatrics, multidisciplinary care, as well as searching for a potential cure for pediatric sleep apnea. They have founded the “Right Under Your Nose” campaign to continue Dr. Guilleminault’s vision. The campaign will be announced at the September AWAKETOGETHER Summit. Learn more on the ASAA’s GoFundMe page.
More details about Dr. Guilleminault’s involvement in the sleep community can be found through his recent tribute celebration in June.
Finally, we invite you to view a historical video of CG presenting information on sleep apnea on the World Sleep Day webpage.
Thank you to our active and supportive sleep community as we continue to advance sleep health worldwide.