The Passage of the Pope of Esophagology

    On January 8, 2021, our dear friend and my mentor, Donald O. Castell, passed away as part of this horrible COVID pandemic. Anointed the “Pope of Esophagology” by Professor Robert Guili, a Parisian surgeon, Don Castell’s name was synonymous with the field of esophageal motility and diseases of the esophagus. His legacy will be the countless young physicians he instilled a passion for esophageal research and the joys of a career in academic gastroenterology worldwide.

    Don Castell was a true giant in our field. He was a former President of the American Gastroenterological Society (1999), first Director of the American College of Gastroenterology Institute for Clinical Research and Education and was awarded the 2010 Julius Friedenwald Medal for his numerous contributions to gastroenterology and clinical research.

    As many of you may know, Don’s first research love was investigating the normal and abnormal physiology of the esophagus and its two sphincters. He developed esophageal manometry with impedance and impedance pH testing. These and other contributions improved our knowledge of many esophageal diseases including achalasia, GERD and oropharyngeal swallowing disorders.

    As a GI trainee with Don at Bethesda Naval Hospital, I fondly remember visiting Tom Hendrix, Bronwyn Jones and Bill Ravich at John Hopkins and participating in their early multidiscipline swallowing center meetings. How stimulating to talk about the esophagus with multiple specialists studying this “simple tube” with their varied tests of esophageal function. Dr. Castell was an early supporter of Reza Shaker in 1991 and 1992 when he established the Dysphagia Research Society and was an original member of the Board of Directors. He was a regular attendee at Society meetings even in the early cold winter meetings at the historical Kohler Hotel in Milwaukee. Several of his important research papers were with DRS members including Reza Shaker and Bonnie Martin-Harris.

    I can attest Don was academically active in retirement up until his illness. We finished and reviewed together the galley proofs to the 6th Edition of the Esophagus, first published in 1991 and the authoritative textbook on Esophageal Diseases. His inspiration and legacy is a testimonial to the 84 authors that contributed to this book, many of whom he trained and are now leaders in our field.

    Rest in peace good friend. Thanks for the memories and experiencing life to the fullest. You have and will continue to inspire us as physicians, teachers and investigators.

    Joel E. Richter, MD, FACP, MACG

    Professor of Medicine

    Hugh F. Culverhouse Chair for Esophageal Disorders

    Director, Division of Digestive Diseases & Nutrition

    Director, Joy McCann Culverhouse Center for Swallowing Disorders

    University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine

    12901 Bruce B. Downs Blvd, MDC 72, Tampa, FL 33612

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    The Passage of the Pope of Esophagology. Dysphagia (2021).

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