MY WASHINGTON — Spring 2005
   

 
Ira & Judith Gall

Building on the Example of Helping Others

The Washington University School of Medicine and the St. Louis Holocaust Museum are among the many St. Louis institutions touched by Ira and Judith Gall. An integral part of the community they've come to love—Ira as a physician and founder of Medicine Shoppe International, and Judith as a dedicated volunteer—their commitment to the area started in 1952 during Ira's medical residency and has continued to grow over the last 50 years.

Ira, having earned his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1951, accepted a residency in obstetrics and gynecology with Washington University's School of Medicine at Barnes Hospital. "I had expected to complete my residency before going into the service," Ira explains, "but the draft board had other ideas." The couple spent two years at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, before returning to St. Louis in 1954.

"We thought we would only stay [in St. Louis] a few years," Judith says. "We didn't know anyone here, and our families were in Cincinnati." (And their families had been influential in Ira and Judith initially becoming a couple. "Our grandparents were friends, and, knowing that we attended the same high school, they wanted us to date!" she says. "Finally we went out." The couple married in 1952.)

Upon returning to St. Louis the second time, Judith was employed at Jewish Hospital, working with people arriving from Europe who had been displaced by World War II. She eventually left that position to raise the couple's three sons, but many years later, the courage and heroism of the refugees Judith met helped to inspire the founding of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum.

Physician and businessman

Following his residency, Ira began a fellowship at the medical school in the field of infertility, which at that time was a subspecialty of gynecology. "There was one little room, an assistant, and me," he recalls. "Today, reproductive endocrinology is a board-certified specialty with nine physicians at the School of Medicine. It's been exciting to see the growth and progress in the field." For a couple of years, he worked with the late William Masters, who was a pioneer in infertility and professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology before pursuing his celebrated studies of human sexuality.

In 1957, Ira entered private practice with the late Mitchell Yanow, M.D. '41, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology at the School of Medicine. They formed one of the first physician corporations in Missouri, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Inc., which eventually grew to include eight doctors. Gall became vice chief of staff and a member of the board at St. John's Mercy Hospital, and he remained on the faculty of the School of Medicine, where he recently retired as a professor of obstetrics and gynecology. He retired from private practice in 2002.

"My father instilled the belief that you have an obligation to give back to your community. ... I am very grateful that we have been able to build on his example," says Ira Gall.

That would be a successful career for most physicians, but in 1970, Gall and Yanow founded Medicine Shoppe International, Inc., a chain of community-oriented franchised pharmacies that handle prescriptions and medical supplies. The partners began with 15 pharmacies, and by 1995, when Medicine Shoppe was purchased by Cardinal Health, Inc., it was the largest franchiser of independent pharmacies in the nation. In 1991, Gall and Yanow were named "Master Entrepreneurs of the Year" by Ernst & Young, Inc. Magazine and Merrill Lynch Business Financial Services.

"It was a case of being in the right place at the right time," Gall says, "yet there were times it was a real struggle. We had a great opportunity and the good fortune to be associated with some very fine people, but we put in a lot of hours, and it didn't happen overnight. Our success was a combination of hard work and a lot of luck."

In return, Ira and Judith have shared their good fortune with others. Ira says: "My father instilled the belief that you have an obligation to give back to your community. He was not a wealthy man, but he believed in helping others. I am very grateful that we have been able to build on his example."

James R. Schreiber, the Elaine and Mitchell Yanow Professor and head of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the medical school, says: "Judith and Ira Gall are true friends of Washington University. They have provided resources to improve our academic programs, and they have given wonderful support to my wife, Mary, and me."

Service to the University and beyond

Ira and Judith also are generous with their time. Ira has served on the medical school's National Council for more than a decade and is a member of the Campaign committee for the Farrell Learning and Teaching Center. He is a former board member of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and a lifetime trustee of Temple Israel, where the Gall Sanctuary is named in the family's honor.

Judith currently is the programs chair for the William Greenleaf Eliot Society. At the Miriam Foundation, she was a member of the board for many years and led the fundraising effort for the new Miriam School, which continues the foundation's tradition of serving children with learning disabilities. She is a lifetime member of the Jewish Hospital Auxiliary and a former board member of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and she currently serves on the board of MERS Goodwill (Metropolitan Employment and Rehabilitation Service and Goodwill Industries); KMOX radio and the Suburban Journals named her a Woman of Achievement in 1999.

Judith also is one of the founders of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center and chaired the museum docents, many of whom are Holocaust survivors. Located in a 5,000-square-foot facility at the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, the museum will celebrate its 10th anniversary in May. It provides a chronological history of pre-war Jewish life in Europe, the rise of Nazism and events from 1933 to 1945, and post-war events including the Nuremburg Trials and Jewish life following the Holocaust. Exhibits include photographs, artifacts, and personal accounts of the many Holocaust survivors who emigrated to St. Louis.

Visitors to the Holocaust Museum come from across the United States and around the world. In the past year, 25,000 students from 350 schools toured the exhibits, including 1,000 students from St. Louis City schools, who were provided with transportation. The museum holds workshops for middle-school and high-school teachers and offers export programs for classes that cannot visit. Recently the museum received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to develop a pilot project with St. Louis City Police at the Police Academy.

Judith says: "There is a 1939 photograph in the museum of a class in Hebrew school in Czechoslovakia. There are three dozen children in the picture, and only one is known to have survived the Holocaust. And you ask yourself: 'What would this child have become, or that one? What wonderful things might they have done?'"

Ira and Judith Gall have dedicated themselves to helping others do great things. They have established scholarships at the Miriam School and the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, and in 1998 they endowed the Ira C. and Judith Gall Professorship in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University's School of Medicine.

"Ira and Judy Gall have enabled us to grow and sustain our leading gynecological cancer program, and Ira has contributed significantly to the medical school's remarkable ascendancy through his clinical work and his wise and thoughtful counsel," says William A. Peck, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Medicine and the former dean and executive vice chancellor for medical affairs. "They are wonderful people and absolutely committed to excellence. I have learned a lot from them and cherish their friendship."

Ira says: "Washington University School of Medicine is a superb institution with outstanding people. To belong to such a community makes you a better person and a better doctor. It has been the single most important professional association in my life, and whatever we have been able to contribute only partially repays what the School of Medicine has done for us."

-Susan Wooleyhan Caine