Passing of Lynn Gillis

28 May 2020
28 May 2020

It is with great sadness that I write to tell you of the passing yesterday of Prof Lynn Gillis, the founding Head of Dept of Psychiatry & Mental Health at UCT.

Lynn was recruited to the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital in 1962, as the first consultant and Head. The first 3 registrars and the first clinical psychologist were appointed in 1963 and 1964.  From this small cohort, Lynn set about creating services, teaching, and research.

Lynn was one of the first proponents of community psychiatry and task-shifting;  under his leadership a number of community clinics were set up, with leadership by nurses. Lynn was a thoughtful and inspiring mentor to his students; he created a strong curriculum for students, with extensive study of human behaviour in the preclinical years, and his textbook of psychiatry for the clinical years, and over the years he grew the number of registrars and senior registrars.  Lynn also headed up the first Medical Research Council Unit in Psychiatry, which was key in initiating a series of studies, and mentoring a number of careers.  The clinical, teaching, research, and social responsiveness strengths of the existing Dept are in no small measure due to Lynn’s pioneering work.

Lynn served as Head of Dept for 27 years, retiring in 1989. During his retirement he was able to pursue his interests in sculpture.  One of his pieces, depicting the multi-disciplinary team, can be seen in the foyer of Valkenberg Hospital.

Lynn was a wonderfully warm man, who positively influenced the lives of many colleagues, students, and patients.  He was a true “mensch”;  a man of integrity, and a man who always had a kind word for everyone.  He will be sorely missed.

Let me take the opportunity to wish comfort to all who were close to him, and to wish his surviving daughter and grandchildren a long life.

Dan Stein 

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