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Gillian MacLean

Messages of Remembrance

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Gillian was the most brilliant and supportive individual I met. No matter what she had going on in her own life, she always took the time to make you feel heard and welcomed. She always had food on the ready, anything from a pot of homemade lentil soup, to gnocchi, or pancakes with all the toppings. Gillian was also so hilarious, and was able to make the most of so many situations. She could turn the most mundane activity into an adventure. And always the life of a party. Gillian will be greatly missed by so many.

Sarah Predham, Friend and Classmate
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Gillian was passionate about helping people with peroxisomal disorders and had been involved with national support groups as well as research on the conditions during her time at McGill. As a genetic counselling student at UBC, she resolved to continue her interest in supporting families with peroxisomal disorders via her directed studies project. Her passion was matched with a determination to make a difference: She had been awarded a grant from the Rare Disease Foundation to do just that. Her goal was to provide patients and their families with the best possible information and care. We will all remember Gillian’s smile along with her dedication, determination, kindness, and cheerful disposition.

Patricia Birch, Directed studies co-supervisor
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I will remember Gillian as someone who emanated kindness. It is a tragedy that her gentle and caring soul will no longer be shared with the patients she was so dedicated to help. She will be missed by many. My deepest condolences to her family.

Anita Dircks, Colleague
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Gillian always wanted to help and she always wanted to learn. I am happy that Gillian got to come back to the Genetic Counselling Program and be part of our class, because that is what she wanted. Both her intelligence and kindness were so apparent right from day one. She tried to hide her braveness but she was braver than the rest of us combined. Thank you for being part of our lives Gillian.

Karen Jacob, Classmate
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Gillian was such a supportive classmate. Without me asking, the night before my case exam she messaged me slides from an old lecture just in case it helped me. I am so grateful she was part of my life. She constantly reminded me what it means to be brave and how to live life in the fullest. Even though she isn't here, I will continue to learn from Gillian's example.

Emma Smith, Classmate
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The last time I was with Gillian, we went to Second Cup for a coffee break. She got a hot chocolate which made me laugh. I loved that she indulged in a mid-day hot cocoa. She got what she felt like at the time and that just reminded to me to do more of whatever I’m feeling in the moment. I’ll always think of her whenever I forgo my regular coffee for a cup of hot chocolate. We miss you GEM.

Stephanie Huynh, Classmate
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I remember the first day I met Gillian. It was my very first day of the genetic counselling training program and I was feeling nervous and intimidated. We were doing the traditional “clinic scavenger hunt” to help us get our bearings and meet everyone. Each of us 1st year students was supposed to pair up with a 2nd year student so that they could give us clues and pointers. I immediately gravitated toward Gillian because of her warm and kind presence. Talking with her, I quickly learned how genuine and compassionate she was. She helped me feel more comfortable that day and like I could go to her with any kind of question in the future. There was never any pretension with Gillian. It was obvious to anyone that heard her talk about peroxisome disorders that her passion and expertise in this area had been driven by a strong desire to help families with these rare diseases. It is deeply saddening to think that I can no longer call her up to ask any kind of question, big or small, or to simply catch up. I will miss you Gillian.

Ashley DeGraaf, Classmate
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Gillian exuded kindness. She was always thoughtful and considerate and had a lightness about her that was contagious. She was never too busy to stop and chat and I always felt like she was genuinely interested in what I had to say. Gillian was deeply passionate about genetic counselling, which was reflected by her perseverance in returning to the program and also by the intention and unique perspectives that she brought to our classes together. She was a wonderful person and I will miss her very much.

Kennedy Borle, Classmate
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While our time together was short, Gillian was such a positive presence in my life. Prior to her joining our class in January, we were uncertain of how the addition of a new classmate may influence the dynamic of our tight knit class. All hesitation disappeared within moments of meeting Gillian. Her empathy, kindness and willingness to listen brought a calming presence to our office during a stressful semester. Her passion for genetic counselling was apparent from her determination to return to the program and was inspiring to all those around her. I will be a better genetic counsellor for having met Gillian and I am thankful she had the unique opportunity to inspire four classes of students. We will miss you Gillian.

Brianna Davies, Classmate
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I met Gillian during the time she was an MSc student in Dr. Nancy Braverman's lab at McGill. Gillian volunteered a number of hours of her precious time that summer to help us in Genetics at the Montreal Children's Hospital. She was passionate about entering the field of genetic counselling, and had so much to offer the profession. She was a beautiful person, inside and out, and was taken from the world much too soon. We send our most sincere condolences to her parents, sister and extended family and friends.

Jennifer Fitzpatrick, Genetic Counselling Colleague
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We were so excited when Gillian chose to come to UBC. She was awarded an entrance scholarship and her time with us affirmed our belief in her excellence, both academically and as a professional. Beyond that, Gillian was a passionate and caring member of our group. She always presented with a smile and a warmth that reflected her true self. She was determined not to let her illness prevent her from achieving what she wanted, and her will to succeed with excellence is something that we will always remember. This is a great loss to our program, and to the genetic counselling community. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.

Tracey Oh and Jenna Scott, Program Directors
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Gillian was such a kind and generous classmate. Whenever I had a question in the office, she never hesitated to help me trouble-shoot or share her knowledge. I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to meet her. I will always be inspired by her strength and wisdom.

Katie Compton, Classmate
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When I first met Gillian, I was intimidated by how smart she was- she had done some amazing research in her previous Master’s degree and seemed to intuitively understand many of the complex genetics concepts. It was easy to see why she had gotten into the program- not only was she smart but she was such a sweet and friendly individual to everyone. She was easy to talk to and always happy to lend an ear. She also understood both sides of an issue and was one to always provide a balanced argument, regardless of the topic. Gillian was equally passionate about Zellweger spectrum syndrome and would love to talk about it to anyone who would listen. Gillian constantly surprised me- she could befriend someone in any situation (which made for some very interesting nights) and had some crazy stories about escapades no one would have guessed of Gillian. She was confident and spontaneous- truly the life of the party. She’ll be missed by all.

Saskia van den Berg, Friend and Classmate
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I met Gillian on the first day of our genetic counselling program and was immediately struck by her brilliance. She brought so much knowledge and passion to our class and constantly motivated us. She always had a warm presence and was available to help me work through problems both academic and personal. As a friend Gillian brought a listening ear accompanied by hilarious advice to any problem. Her vibrant and mischievous personality lit up any situation and I have endless fond memories from our time together in Vancouver. Gillian was a daily example of how to persevere through uncontrollable odds and I'm grateful to have been her peer and friend. She will be greatly missed.

Savanie Maithripala, GC Classmate
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I only knew Gillian for a short time but it was clear from the day I met her what a great student and person she was. She truly had a positive impact on our program. I am and will continue to be inspired by Gillian's strength, determination, wisdom and kindness. I feel lucky to have known her. My sincerest condolences to her friends and family.

Stephanie Chieffo, Genetic Counselling Classmate
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Gillian is going to be so missed- I don't think I have ever met a person who saw the positive in everything as much as Gillian. She always believed the best in everyone and everything. She was incredibly sweet and funny- I still remember her cracking jokes at our Christmas party and realizing what a great sense of humour she had. She was also brilliant- I remember when Gillian presented to our class after she presented her research at a conference. She had such a natural understanding of the complex molecular details of peroxisomal disorders- far and above my own, and probably any one else in that room. Gillian accomplished incredible things in her life, and it is devastating that she was taken from the world so soon. I hope her memory will motivate us all to be a little more kind every day.

Gena Shepherd, Classmate
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In the short time that I knew Gillian, two qualities about her made a lasting impression on me: a gentle kindness and a sincere desire to find something encouraging and/or funny to say to just about everyone. She showed these qualities regularly in a countless variety of professional and social situations. Learning about her unexpected passing left me with much sadness. I can only imagine the loss of her life and warm presence is being felt by her family and close friends in a way that mere words would not adequately describe. I respectfully send my condolences to all of them. Gillian would have been a fantastic genetic counsellor. She possessed an impressive amount of knowledge that she communicated with a warm confidence and gentle smile. She displayed much perseverance in returning to the program in spite of her health challenges. I have no doubt she would have gained the respect of anybody that she would have worked with and excelled in her career path. I will respect her memory and the positive impression she left on me by trying to treat others with the same kind of gentle kindness she so generously displayed to everyone in her life.

Rob Cantrup, Former Classmate
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Gillian was a warm and caring person unlike anyone else I have ever met. She always saw the good in people and did whatever she could to brighten the day of those around her. She was the person who would bring you soup if you were sick. She would be the first to notice a friend who is upset. She would text you to make sure you got home safe. As a scientist and aspiring genetic counsellor, Gillian was brilliant. She was incredibly humble about her research contributions, but her work lead to the discovery of a new therapy for Zellweger spectrum disorders! She had so much compassion for her patients and truly wanted to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Gillian was an amazing person and she will be greatly missed. I send my deepest condolences to her family.

Emma Leach, Friend & Classmate
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Despite our short time with Gillian we will remember her warm presence and positive attitude. We are inspired by her dedication to genetic counselling, and we will carry this motivation forward with us through the program and our careers. We wish we had more time to get to know her better. Our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Jill, Vanessa, Eugene and Cara, Classmates
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I had not had much interaction with Gillian (other than smiles and hellos) prior to the graduation party of her class. We had a conversation then. She was not graduating due to her health issues but was very positive and very supportive of her colleagues who were moving on. I was impressed by her positive outlook. Many would have seen their glass as half full. This was not Gillian. My condolences to her family at this great loss. Her loss is also a loss for genetic counselling as a profession. She would have made an excellent genetic counsellor.

David Koehn, Head Genetic Counsellor
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It was always a pleasure to have the MacLean girls come to the house for their piano lessons. Gillian was always prepared and very optimistic. Beautiful person with a great personality. Sympathies to all.

Helen Edgar, Piano Teacher
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To me, Gill had such a positive presence. If I could describe her in one word, I would say warmth. But such an amazing woman cannot be described with one word. She was a kind soul with a beaming smile. With her combination of joy and wit, she had an infectious humor. When I think of Gill my strongest memory is playing board games with her (and losing!). My deepest sympathies to Dan, Rosalind and Diana. It was a privilege to know Gill, and I will not forget her.

Nick Bardsley, Friend
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Christmas dinner will never be the same without Gillian and those paper hats and silly toys we got in the Christmas crackers. Her smile was infectious, her joy unbounded. Such a lovely person. You were part of our family.

Ruth, Friend

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