Date: 03 Sep, 2019   Time:

A personal tribute to Prof. Christian Guilleminault

Daniel Ng

As a giant in the field of sleep medicine, it is my honour to get to know him as a mentee and a friend. I first met Prof. Christian Guilleminault, aka CG, in the fall of 1997 when he was the invited speaker for the first annual scientific meeting of the Hong Kong Society of Paediatric Respirology, now Hong Kong Society of Paediatric Respirology and Allergy. Despite the busy schedule we planned for him, we managed to bring him out for a walk around Cheung Chau in a beautiful Autumn afternoon. We walked around Cheung Chau whilst he gave me an earful of his insight and hypotheses, e.g. habitual snoring is pathological, about sleep-disordered breathing in children and the questions to be answered. I managed to take up a short term fellowship the following year and saw how he taught sleep medicine with a passion, emphasized with his very famous “guillotine” for those who made mistakes. That plethora of personal convictions of CG is in fact so fascinating that I spent the following 2 decades answering a few of the questions. CG has a crystal clear mind with a sharp wit and he could appear to be intimidating in discussion during research meeting / open lectures to people not familiar with his personality. Behind this formidable appearance lies a generous and kind heart. He is willing to train anyone interested in sleep medicine and makes the Stanford facility available to a lot of overseas visitors, Kahlin and me included. A lot of doctors from Hong Kong and Asia benefited from the exposure to the excellent training program in Stanford. CG is usually the first to arrive in the lab and starts his day reading PSG with his fellows. One of his best overseas students is undoubtedly Prof. Yushu Huang who went to him as a psychiatrist and came away as a world famous sleep physician. Yushu became a key person taking care of CG in Taiwan where CG visited a few times per year. His presence helps propel the service standard and the research quality of Taiwan sleep medicine.

CG came to Hong Kong every 3-4 years in the last 2 decades attending various meetings. Each time he brought new ideas about the genesis of SDB and the ways to alter the trajectory of SDB so as to prevent adolescent / adult OSAS. This of course gets everybody excited, not just paediatricians. His passion and willingness to share his knowledge endears him to many doctors in Hong Kong and they become interested in childhood SDB. It is noteworthy that the dental community in Hong Kong is now very interested in sleep medicine because of CG’s research work in dental sleep medicine and the upper airway and the potentials of orofacial myofunctional therapy.
CG is always willing to give critical remarks to any research papers
He is the force behind the establishment of the International Pediatric Sleep Association (IPSA) and the World Association of Sleep Medicine. He also pushed for and managed to establish an international sleep medicine examination modeled on that of AASM.
He was also fond of wine, nice food and, of course for French, beautiful ladies. He was always cheerful even during his final days when he was in pain. He had that amazing ability to sleep even after drinking a cupful of espresso after dinner.
CG will always be remembered fondly as a great mentor of many doctors worldwide and a good friend who taught me a lot.
God bless you, CG.