In memory of Dr Arne N. Gjorgov


18 October 2013

Arne N. Gjorgov, an epidemiologist from Macedonia, who researched the association between barrier contraception and breast cancer in women, died October 18th, 2013 aged 83

I first met him in 1999, with my first ever employment in Children’s Aid Direct, a British NGO. All employed over there were younger, only He was an exception. He was sitting alone, entering some data into computer. Some questionnaires. He was working on some statistics, and he materialized the results in to meaningful written text. All the time he was writing something. He got my attention immediately. I wanted to come closer to him, to follow what he was working. He looked at me, and was quite. I continued to stay close to him. After few days i asked “Doctor, what are you working on?” He looked at me and he said: “Seat and observe if you want to learn.” I set… and I learned…

Dr Arne Gjorgov was borne in 1930 in the town of Veles, Central part in the Republic of Macedonia. He was proud of his birth town. He was proud to his parents and he talked about them with dignity. With respect he talked about his father. Just few know the story of his mother Raca, and the love our famous poet had for her. Kosta is Racin due to his love to mother of Dr Arne. Maybe it is this platonic love that sparkled the interest in Dr Arne and motivated his quest to research the women. To research the biological connection between the man and women, what was central interest of his scientific work.

Dr Arne Gjorgov graduated at the Faculty of Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia. He defended his master thesis at the Andrija Stampar School of Public Health in Zagreb. His master thesis was on the eradication of malaria in Macedonia. Just few weeks ago we listed his work, and I was fascinated both in how it is written, and in the way how the problem is illustrated, with hand painted graphics.

In his professional life he worked on many research issues, but his professional inspiration was and it remained the thesis of his doctorate that he defended in 1978 at the University of North Caroline, Chapel Hill, USA. His doctorate dissertation was on Breast Cancer and Barrier Contraception. He wrote numerous publications, hundreds of letters, communications and correspondences. Frequently he was receiving letters from heads of state, officials and politicians who were interested in his research. The approach Dr Arne had towards this problem, his enthusiasm and energy, to me were and it will continue to be endless source of inspiration. I was always fascinated by his enormous energy and knowledge.

Dr Arne committed all his life to his family, to science and to the endless quest towards the new discoveries. He had great respect towards history, art, philosophy, towards the life. He was the man who always observed the issues critically. He left in my memories endless wonderful moments, and unforgettable memories. He was the one who show me the secrets of epidemiology, he showed me the world of research, philosophy of science. He pointed to me the great philosophers Carl Poper, Imre Lakatos, Paul Feyerabend… He used to say..”Read them Vlado, read, you will learn”. With hours we discussed the art of Gustav Klimt and his fascination with women. To me he was endless source of inspiration; he was my teacher and intellectual debater. Always critical, just, but wide and full with knowledge.

In this last farewell to my Doctor I would like to share two moments that for me show his sharpness, power to concentrate, that he maintained till the last days of his life.

It was 2001 and we worked together at the Ministry of health and Health Insurance Fund in Macedonia. There was a problem with the Japanese donation, caused by our internal issues. We need to wrote emergency letter to his Excellency, the Ambassador of Japan in Austria, Vienna. I was not prepared to write in English and I called upon the Doctor. I asked him to write the letter together. He writes, and i am sitting above his head putting additional pressure to finish it fast. In one moment I decide to jump in, to add few more sentences. I print the letter and ready to send it by fax. In one moment Dr Arne asks: “Please, let me read it once again before you send”. I gave the letter to him. He reads, in one moment he looks at me and asks “Vlado, you add one word here «misunderstanding». We cannot send this letter with this word in it. We need to change it!” But i am in a hurry and i say: Come on doctor, who would notice one word in two pages letter? I take the letter, and the secretary sends it. After less than hour we receive a phone call in the ministry. They are looking for me. His Excellency adviser is on the phone. He thanks me for the letter and the fast reaction, but he askes: “Dear Mr Lazarevik, in your letter there is one word we do not understand «Misunderstanding». We would like you to clarify this word.

I remained speechless. 

The second moment i want to share was our last walk, and visit we did to the Museum of the Macedonian struggle for independence. I invited dr Arne and his dear wife Rodna, to visit the museum together. We walked and I carefully followed the doctor. We walked over the whole museum, through all phases of the our struggle for independence, and we came to the era of Tito-ism, how he used to call that period. He watched carefully, and was silenced. On walking out, he asked to write something in the memory book. I stood next to him and watched interested to see what he will write. He wrote three words "Beautiful, accurate, and true. And he singed, Dr Arne N. Gjorgov."

That focus, power to concentrate, the need to look after every written word, but always to write, to document, that is what Dr Arne Gjorgov left in legacy, even today when he is no longer with us.

Rest in peace dear doctor,

Yours Vlado 

Vladimir Lazarevik