He achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose memory a benediction.
-B.A. Stanley
  • Born on April 17, 1953 .
  • Passed away on October 29, 2018 .

John Baillie, BSc (Hons), MB ChB, FRCP, MACG, FASGE

John passed away peacefully at home, with his wife, Alison, children Katie & Chris, and faithful canine companions, Lucy & Dougal, at his side.

He had a long, often arduous, journey after his diagnosis of a brain tumor in January 2017, but he bore it with great fortitude and patience. Though he was unable to get back to work as he had hoped, he and Alison enjoyed several trips, including cruises to the Mediterranean and Caribbean, and time with wonderful friends and family.

John was born on the Isle of Islay to Allan, manager of the Bowmore Whisky Distillery, and Kathie, a schoolteacher in Bowmore.

He grew up in Glasgow with his twin brother, Hector and older brother, Tom, and attended the University of Glasgow, where he met Alison, graduating from medical school in 1977.

After marrying in 1980, they moved to Minneapolis MN in 1981 so that John could complete a fellowship in gastroenterology. Shortly after Katie was born in 1984, there was another trans-Atlantic journey so that John could pursue further training as a senior registrar at the Middlesex Hospital and University of London Hospital.

In 1988, John, Alison, Katie and new baby, Chris, moved back to the States, and John took up a position at Duke University Medical Center.

In the years since, John has worked at Wake Forest University Health Sciences in Winston Salem, Carteret Health Medical Center in Morehead City NC, and Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond, VA.

In his professional life, John was a passionate educator, a prolific publisher, and a dedicated clinician, making lifelong friends of his trainees, colleagues, and even patients. 

In his personal life, he was a wonderful husband and father who lived his life with a passion that was infectious. John and Alison, often accompanied by their children, traveled extensively, building indelible memories.

John was also a private pilot, an avid golfer, and an enthusiastic angler, pursuits he shared with his son. He lived long enough to see his daughter Katie blossom into an adventurous and compassionate young woman, marry and start a life with Stavros, and to see Chris achieve success in adulthood, earning a PhD and becoming engaged to Alli. 

John wouldn’t want his friends and loved ones to mourn his passing, but instead celebrate a life well-lived. He would want you to remember the joke that made him laugh until he cried, the shared glass of scotch, and the enthusiasm and sense of humor that drew so many to him in life. He lives on in the memories of all those who loved him and whom he loved. 

John's family has been immensely touched by the outpouring of love and support during this difficult time. We are so grateful.

We ask that you leave stories and photos of John on this site to honor his memory.

In lieu of flowers, a donation to a charity of your choice or one of John's favorite charities (Doctors Without Borders @ www.doctorswithoutborders.org ; Beyond Fences @ https://beyondfences.org/) would be a meaningful way to remember him.

Posted by Alastair Scouller on 2nd December 2018
Gilbert McCaul has been in touch with the sad news of John's passing. Unlike others who have written here, I did not know John as an adult. My memories of him go back to the late 1960s at Jordanhill College School, when a little lad with glasses and a squeaky voice began to make himself known at school debates by asking convoluted but incisive questions. Although I was three years older, he and Hector became friends of mine, especially during a memorable school trip to Salzburg in 1968. Then I went to University, and we lost touch. It has been fascinating to read the accounts of his adult life, how his outstanding intellect was married to a warm and compassionate personality, and how he touched so many other people's lives. I am deeply saddened to hear of his death, and send condolences to Alison, his children, and to his brothers Tom and Hector. I too have become a regular visitor to Islay in recent years, and will remember John when I am next there. Cuiridh mi clach air a charn.
Posted by John Long on 25th November 2018
John's passing was tough news to bear. I first met John in 2006 when I joined the GI division at Wake Forest as a new faculty member and he was relatively new there as well. His reputation in the GI academic world was well known and we quickly became friends. I often wondered why a guy with such great intellect, big persona, and major accomplishments in academia would want to be friends with me, but I soon learned that he was at heart a decent and thoughtful man who enjoyed his work and his life and was never too lofty to develop friendships with junior faculty, fellows, residents, etc. John was also always the voice of reason in the audience at teaching conferences and reminded us to always do what's right for the patient and never do things in medicine for the wrong reasons - politics, RVUs, money. JB and I shared a love of golf and played many rounds together over the years. He always found a way to make a bad outing on the course enjoyable and fun. Sadly after his illness took him back to Durham I did not get to see him again or play one more round with him. I will miss him greatly. John Long
Posted by Tom Baillie on 25th November 2018
John was one of my two younger brothers (“the twins”), all three of us born in the Distillery Manager’s house in Bowmore, Isle-of-Islay, Scotland. We relocated to Glasgow shortly after John and Hector arrived, and we grew up there together. We all attended the same school (Jordanhill College School) and the same university (Glasgow University), and while I studied chemistry, John and Hector pursued an education in medicine. John was the smartest of the three of us, leaving high school a year earlier than most of his peers and graduating with both a bachelor’s degree in Pathology and an MB ChB degree in medicine. Both of us entered careers in academia that ultimately took us to the USA – John to the East Coast and I to the Pacific NW, so unfortunately our paths were seldom to cross during our adult lives. Even as a young boy, John’s selfless consideration for others was clearly evident – always willing to help where needed. I must confess that I took advantage of John’s goodwill on more than one occasion, notably when our mother, Kathie Baillie, asked me to run some errand to the local grocery store – one of my least favorite chores. A whispered request to John usually elicited a positive response, often facilitated by a modest bribe such as a three-pence piece, referred to in the vernacular of the day as a “thrupny bit”! I have no doubt that John’s lifelong concern for others contributed to his reputation as a skilled and compassionate physician – an accomplishment that would have made our father, Allan Baillie, who grew up in Scotland during the Great Depression and never had the opportunity of a higher education, immensely proud. Both John and I developed an interest in aviation stimulated, no doubt, by many lengthy after-dinner tales of our father’s flying exploits during WWII. We each learned to fly after moving to the USA, and we flew together on several occasions. On one memorable day-trip from Raleigh-Durham to Ocracoke, NC, and back, the alternator failed on the return trip, and before long the battery was drained of sufficient energy to power the radios and navigation instruments. How to get back into a busy commercial airport without a radio – after dark, nonetheless? John calmly decided to land at a small airfield on the way, call ATC on a local pay phone, and make special arrangements to return to RDU as a “no radio” arrival. All went well, the episode illustrating John’s ability to keep cool under pressure – no doubt, another beneficial attribute for a medical practitioner! Others have commented on John’s outstanding professional reputation in the world of gastroenterology and, in particular, endoscopy. I encountered John’s notoriety personally during a routine pre-colonoscopy interview, when the gastroenterologist assigned to perform the procedure commented on the unusual spelling of my surname. I explained that “Baillie” was the Scottish spelling, whereupon he responded that there was a highly renowned endoscopist with the very same last name who also came from Scotland. I couldn’t resist but to inform the physician that Dr. John Baillie was none other than my “wee brother”, which led to the exclamation that, “Well then, I’d better not screw up your colonoscopy!” John’s untimely passing is indeed tragic, especially for someone who always was so full of life. His love of family, his compassion for others (dogs as well as humans), his wry sense of humor, and his tireless commitment to the field of medicine, combined to make him a truly unique individual. I am proud of his many accomplishments, personal and professional, and to have been his “big brother.” Tom Baillie
Posted by Eamonn Quigley on 13th November 2018
Our lives ran in parallel from the time I first met John when I was at the Western Infirmary and he at the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow 40 years ago. Several transatlantic moves later we both found ourselves back in the US and when we met recounted family and work events and reminisced over our time in Glasgow. He was ever the proud Scotsman; many years later I visited Islay and sent John a photo of a rainbow above the inlet that was the background to the graveyard where his parents lay - then you understood his roots and the steadfast integrity that was central to all that he did. I was in Italy at a meeting with Richard Hunt when I heard the very sad news - I feel I lost a fellow traveler. That night Richard and I raised a dram of Bowmore 12 year old to John's memory. Slán go fóill, mo chara Ni beig do leihead ann aris
Posted by Christopher Baillie on 12th November 2018
On behalf of the Baillie family, I would like to extend our most sincere thanks to everyone who has contributed and for all the messages of support we have received. In celebrating his life, your stories and memories are such a wonderful reminder of all the magnificent friends my father was so fortunate to have had in his life. Erich Remarque is credited with the saying that "dark times reveal good people." In the case of my father's illness and passing, I think it would be more apt to say that "difficult times reinforce the goodness of people," as my father and our family have long been aware of the generous, thoughtful, and warm-hearted people that gravitated towards my father and my father towards them. "We are the keepers of the memories. A sacred trust given by one who has journeyed on." -G. Stansbury
Posted by Michael Feiler on 12th November 2018
I met John in 2001 when I returned to Duke as a GI fellow, and then stayed on after training as a faculty member. John was an excellent teacher and a quick wit. He was an entertaining speaker who taught many of us around the world much about pancreaticobiliary disease, as a prolific traveler and educator. He was also great fun to be around and had an endless supply of jokes. He, Barry O'Connor, Don Rockey and I were a formidable foursome who won the Duke Medicine Faculty and Housestaff golf tournament several times. He will be sorely missed.
Posted by Jorge Obando on 12th November 2018
I am probably one of many trainees who consider John a mentor. After John left Duke, and especially now, it is hard to walk by Duke South endoscopy and not think of him. During training, I ran into John at the Starbucks on MLK every day before work, where he had 2 shots of espresso, standing up, in a very European way. Then he had 2 more shots walking from Duke North to South after morning rounds. I couldn’t understand how he could have a steady hand to cannulate the bile duct, with so much caffeine on board, but he obviously did, brilliantly. And John had the best jokes of anyone I’ve met. John also was the ultimate physician, both clinically and academically. He was the face of Duke GI to the outside world for many years and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with Alison, Katie and Chris.
Posted by Donald Cameron on 11th November 2018
As Alison's sister and brother in law, we wanted to share our thoughts on John. John Baillie was one of a very small group of people who actually made the world a better place. We have known John a long time, obviously as Alison's sister I have known John for some 40 years but Donald met John a bit later. He admits to have been slightly scared of him initially - John had a aura about him and when he talked, you just knew you were in the presence of an incredibly intelligent man. As we got to know him we became aware of his wicked sense of humour, his kindness and extreme generosity, not forgetting his insatiable appetite for midget gems (sports mixture)! What was very apparent was John's great love for his family, for Alison, Katie and Chris as well of course for Dougal and Lucy. With almost 40 years of married life it shows the depth of their relationship and as a loving husband and father as well as a brother in law and friend, there will be a big space in our lives.
Posted by Richard Kozarek on 10th November 2018
It has already been said by John's friends, family, colleagues and admirers: larger than life, multi-dimensional ( reader, Marshall arts expert, raconteur, student and teacher), and from my personal standpoint, dear friend, fellow traveler, late night confidant-both lamenting the state of politics/medicine/global warming/the continued contraction of airline seat and leg space... John, Linda and I will miss you terribly. One only makes a few memorable connections in this life. We are richer for your friendship, poorer by your absence.
Posted by Justus Krabshuis on 9th November 2018
Ach what a sadness this is. I think it was Whisky and the West Coast of Scotland we had in common. With others we went to visit the special Islay Kilnave graveyard where his parents were buried. He would come to Argyll and to Islay to be there a few moments with his parents. Visits to Tarbert and then to Campbeltown. One day he came to my village of Skipness in Argyll and stayed overnight …the ‘water of life’ flowed and his visit will never be forgotten. He was one of these magnificent West Highland characters …a true Ileach, an Islay man made good in the world …in spite of all the difficulties of making a life in the Inner Hebrides…he rose far above all that …an example to us all. My thoughts go out to his family …what a lovely man he was! An honest man lies here at rest The friend of man, the friend of truth The friend of age, and guide of youth. Few hearts like his with virtue warmed Few heads with knowledge so informed If there’s another world, he lives in bliss If there is none, he made the best of this. (Robert Burns)
Posted by Andrew Muir on 8th November 2018
I met Dr. Baillie when I was an intern at Duke in 1993. I remember his quick wit but also his patience and kindness with patients with challenging cases of pancreatitis. He would sit down to listen to them and give them all the time they needed. He also was kind to us as interns and residents and made time to teach. As I went through those early phases of my training, he was so encouraging and ultimately wrote me a letter of recommendation for my GI fellowship application. I was then fortunate to train as a fellow under him. He was such a dynamic person, and he was respectful of patients while also making rounds enjoyable and intellectually challenging. I felt fortunate to know him and to learn from him. He had great influence on so many of us.
Posted by Guilherme Campos on 8th November 2018
My sentiments to his wife and children. I meet John in 2015 when we both moved to Richmond to work at VCU. An energetic, honest, outstanding clinician and endoscopist; but more importantly a individual which was a great pleasure to hang around. He will be missed.
Posted by Richard Bloomfeld on 6th November 2018
John was a giant in Gastroenterology and meant so much to me personally. John was one of my mentors as a resident and a fellow at Duke. I valued working with John for years as a colleague at Wake Forest. He will continue to be a role model for me in my career. John will be missed, but never forgotten for the tremendous impact he has had on his patients and the Gastroenterology community.
Posted by Lisa Gangarosa on 6th November 2018
To the Baillie family- I was very sorry to hear about your loss. John was one my attending physicians on my internal medicine rotation as a Duke med student in the late 1980's. I also pursued a career in GI/advanced endoscopy and eventually returned to NC (albeit at UNC). I would see John over the years at meetings and he always had time for a chat. He will be missed by the GI community!
Posted by Elizabeth Koch on 5th November 2018
Dear Alison and family, Elizabeth and I were so saddened by this news. As you know, I had the pleasure of getting to know you and John during his recruitment to the Wake GI faculty. John was already a famous gastroenterologist and we were delighted he joined us and you were supportive despite the distance! Of many memories, two popped up in my mind. John gave lectures in the section as did others, but I have never been in so many lectures where my repeated belly laughs turned into bellyaches! He was a master in communication with insightful humor! And I remember you and John drove to Winston-Salem for a GI Christmas party at the Gilliam's. I thought that was so kind and thoughtful, to make the trip, join in, celebrate -and I recall you were a dashing couple in love. We will remember John for all he accomplished but will remember him more for the unique and gifted person he was and shared with us. Ken and Elizabeth
Posted by Nick Shaheen on 5th November 2018
I was privileged to know John for 25 years as a colleague and friend. Although we worked for much of that time for different shades of blue, we shared some patients, collaborated on service to professional societies and for CME events, and became friends. John had an infectious love of life. One experience I had with him comes to mind: John had somehow convinced the sponsors of a CME event in South Carolina that it would be good if he and I flew down for the event in a plane he piloted, as opposed to just driving. So he and I got into an old 2 seater at RDU and started flying down. After what seemed like a turbulent 2 hours (probably was 45 minutes), we got to the airport. Instead of just putting it down, John decided it would be a good chance to practice touch and goes. I had no idea of what a touch and go was. But I found out over the next half hour, as we went up and down. I actually enjoyed it, mostly because John enjoyed it, and his enthusiasm was infectious. I will miss his big laugh, his insight, and his love of a well-turned phrase.
Posted by Dr. Rock on 5th November 2018
To the Family and Friends of John Baillie: I send you my deepest condolences upon the loss of this remarkable man. For many years John and I worked together in our Friday morning outpatient clinic. You can learn a lot about a doctor when you witness him taking care of patients. I learned that John was not only a consummate diagnostician, but also a sensitive and compassionate physician. He was also a master teacher fully grounded in the rich history and traditions of our profession. We laughed - a lot. That is how I will remember him.
Posted by Pier Alberto Testoni on 4th November 2018
Dear Alison Marina an I have been informed just yesterday that John left us. There are no words to express our feeling in this moment, since 20 years of sincere friendship and appreciation of his scientific and academic qualities. We spent a lot of time together, even in vacation; John was our host many times in Italy, where he knew our children Sabrina and Paolo, and we have been hosted by you at your home, were we knew Chris and Katie, when he invited me as visiting professor at Duke university. Beside these familial moments, in these 20 years we had also several occasions of working together for book chapters and editorials, and I learned a lot from his scientific knowledge. We never forget John and the wonderful time spent together !!
Posted by Giorgio Minoli on 4th November 2018
I met John many years ago and I have a "great" memory of him. I learnt a lot from him. I will remember every his visit to Como.
Posted by Barbara Poleski on 3rd November 2018
I met John when I began working with Duke GI department. His reputation however preceded him even before we became friends. I had attended meetings where John spoke, and he was certainly a great speaker. I had read his opinions and editorials and was always impressed by the clarity of his writing and research long before I worked with him at Duke. He was a superb endoscopist and well respected as a teacher and mentor to many trainees in Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine. John was an amazing typist. He could have had a job as the fastest transcriptionist at Duke. He did have a dry sense of humor. One day, passing by my office, he caught sight my two finger typing technique. He looked for a moment; then asked me, “what are you planning to do with your other 8 fingers”? John contributed much to our medical profession. He mentored many physicians who now practice throughout the world. His many students today, treat patients, do skilled endoscopy and try to find improved treatments for diseases. After John left Duke, Barbara and I would enjoy meeting him and Alison for breakfast some of the times he was back in Durham. These breakfasts remain pleasant memories for Barbara and I. The only disagreements John and I would have; is John would always insist that it was his turn to pick up the check. Martin Poleski MD
Posted by Amitabh Chak on 3rd November 2018
I was honored to try and fill his shoes as Associate Editor for Abstracts for GIE. This started a friendship that continued and grew whenever we met over a glass of single malt. His command of the English language and the ability to express his opinion was simply brilliant. Will always remember his desire to be faculty at our DDW course even as he was diagnosed and recuperated from his treatment. Just grateful that he was able to attend and lecture once again on the podium in Chicago.
Posted by Massimo Conio on 3rd November 2018
It is very difficult to express my feeling as words are not enough to mitigate his loss. I would like to say that John was a good friend and we had a very good time in our courses of the European School of Oncology. He will be always in my heart.
Posted by Hector Baillie on 3rd November 2018
John was my twin brother. John was smarter than me at school: he did well in English and Latin and History (I did Technical Drawing and Geography and Math). I was in ‘slow learner’ streams at Jordanhill College School. John studied, and had glasses early on. John got a stethescope as a youngster, and wanted to start a school medical club – although we will never know if this rumour was true. I remember Christmases at home in Southbrae Drive (Glasgow): I remember summers on the beach at Tangy (Kintyre): but mostly I remember the fun we had, staying with Aunt Margaret in Campbeltown. John did well at Glasgow University, with an intercalated degree (with Honors) in Pathology, and commendation on graduating MBChB. He did house-jobs at the Royal Infirmary, and Victoria Hospitals. I took longer to get to the same destination, but I was fortunate to share many of his friends and experiences. Did he influence me in my choice of careers? Probably. But we went separate ways after dad died. We kept in touch, but not as much as we should have. John married Alison, and set course for a remarkable career. John liked life. He had a wry wit. He enjoyed flying a small plane, telling stories (& jokes), travel, and seeing the big picture. He was an academic, and achiever and a role model physician. He wrote papers and book chapters, organised conferences and taught fellows. He was a leader. I once sat beside a stranger on a flight to Kansas, and learning he was medical, I said my brother was a gastroenterologist, Dr Baillie. “Oh John Baillie!” he replied in a southern drawl. It’s a small world. We were not that close, considering we were twins. I often told people “we are not identical, but he tries to look like me”. I certainly looked up to him and his achievements. He spent most of his time as an American gastroenterologist, an expert in hepato-biliary work, a hands-on type of guy. John didn’t tolerate fools well. I guess we shared that gene in common. We valued our Scottish heritage, and our rich clinical training. We had our faults, which made us human. If we are valued for the wake of wellbeing we leave behind, John’s ship in life was a supertanker. He made a difference in so many people’s lives: less pain and suffering, more understanding and joy, longer and more productive existence. I doubt he received the recognition he deserved from all his patients, but certainly his professional society and physician friends saw him as an eagle, or maybe a condor, in the broad flight of medical professionals. My last true visit was John was on his 65th birthday. We went for a walk, and for dinner, with his wife and family. He had been struck down by a brain cancer, and must have been frustrated by the limitations it bestowed on him. John was not one who would have accepted these lightly. Thank God for people like Alison and Chris and Katie and others, who were with him throughout life, and at journey’s end. Thank you, John, for all you did, and for your rich legacy of achievement. You will be remembered as a great guy.
Posted by Mike Byrne on 3rd November 2018
I know that I am among many people around the globe who regard John as their ultimate mentor. He undoubtedly was that for me, but he was also so much more. John was a true friend, a confidante, and a source of inspiration. So much mention is made of his infectious humour and personality——and for very good reason. John’s presence in a room was impossible to ignore. His commentary was often hilarious but also insightful and showed his true grasp of complex medical matters. I will miss John dearly, and he will live strong in my memory as a true icon and legend. Keep smiling and laughing, John. I, like so many, love you, and you will never be forgotten. I toasted your memory with my former fellow (now my colleague) last night over a glass of wine and dinner, and even though he had never met you, he recognized the tremendous legacy you left. “Give me the scope before you make that ampulla look even more like a dog’s dinner”—-JB, many times between 2001 and 2003. Mike
Posted by Alan Hamre on 3rd November 2018
My favorite memory is about Alison and John. Was 7 or 8 years ago when Alison was at APS and I a volunteer dog walker. Was one of those 'dog days' in July or August. So hot and humid that the dogs didn't even enjoy the walks. Alison's air conditioner at home had quit and couldn't be fixed for a day or two. She advised John,, working in Winston Salem, to stay there at an air conditioned hotel versus coming home. Two words, generous love. we are Baillie fans if there is such a thing. Al & Sue

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