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Trustee Jorge Galante dies at 82

Beloit College trustee Dr. Jorge O. Galante, who was a revolutionary in the field of joint replacement, passed away on Thu, Feb. 9 at the age of 82.

Dr. Galante had served on Beloit’s board of trustees since 1997, and had become a life trustee in 2006. While working with the college, he was an advocate for and a personal contributor to scholarship programs for students in need. He also encouraged mutual support and engagement between the college and surrounding community.

While Galante was working as a surgeon at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where he eventually became Grainger Director Emeritus of the Arthritis and Orthopedic Institute, he observed the need for a better prosthetic material for joint replacements than the bone cement used at the time. The cement was only effective for older and less active patients, and didn’t hold up in younger, more active ones.

Galante collaborated with metallurgists and other scientists to develop a porous metal fiber coating for prosthetic devices. This innovation allowed the patient’s bone to naturally grow into the device, assuring stability. Along with other prosthetic knee and hip designs that Galante produced with colleagues during his career ― for a time, the Miller-Galante knee and the Harris-Galante hip were the most widely used in the world ― the fiber metal coating transformed joint replacement.

“There were serious problems affecting millions of people and few valuable solutions,” Galante told Orthopedics Today in 2014. “From my viewpoint, the allure of tackling unresolved issues of that magnitude was irresistible.”

The significance of his research wasn’t constrained to his own species. In 1986, Galante performed a bilateral hip replacement on a 25-year-old female gorilla named Beta at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. Beta had lost the use of both legs to arthritis, but was able to live another 22 years pain-free following the surgery.

Galante was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1934. He completed medical school in Argentina before immigrating to Chicago in 1958. There, he interned at Michael Reese Hospital, then completed his residency in orthopedics at the University of Illinois Hospital in 1964. He studied as a research fellow at the University of Göteberg in Sweden until 1967, earning a Doctorate of Medical Science, then returned to Chicago and worked at the University of Illinois Hospital until he became the first chairman of Rush University Medical Center’s newly established Department of Orthopedic Surgery. During his time there, he made Rush into one of the top orthopedic programs in the country.

While at Michael Reese Hospital, Galante met Sofija Kabliauskas, a clinical cytologist and Lithuanian emigrant. They married in 1960 and remained together until she passed away in 2010. The couple has a son, Charles, and four grandchildren.

Galante bred horses at his farm in Clinton, Wis. and invested in an Argentine winery with his son. He remained passionate about orthopedics until the end of his life; just days before his death, he had been working on a new knee implant design with colleagues at Rush.  He died of complications from cancer in his Florida home on Sanibel Island.

In an email to students and faculty on Wed, Feb. 15, Beloit College president Scott Bierman wrote that “Dr. Galante was an insightful, generous and ambitious leader for the college,” and that he “will be sorely missed by the people and institutions that were lucky enough to have been touched by him.” Bierman also said that Dr. Galante’s family has asked that memorial gifts be made to Beloit College and to Rush University Medical Center.

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