David Bailey, a leading physician and athlete, has died at the age of 77

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Being first was nothing new to London doctor David Bailey.

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A researcher at the Lawson Institute for Health Research was the first to discover a medical breakthrough, about 15 years ago, that the drug did not mix well with some fruit juices, especially grapefruit juice.

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He was also the first Canadian to run a mile in under four minutes in 1966.

Amid his professional and athletic achievements, Bailey has remained a true, humble man, said David Hale, scientific director at Lawson, the research arm of London Hospitals.

Billy died on August 17 at his home. He was 77 years old.

“What has made his career so special is that so few of us make a field-changing discovery. It has undoubtedly saved many lives,” Hill said.

It was 2008 when Bailey discovered that drinking apple, orange, or grapefruit juice could negate the benefits of some important drugs, including anti-cancer drugs.

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The groundbreaking research was presented at an international conference in Philadelphia. It also found that common juices may inhibit the transplant drug cyclosporine, which can lead to organ rejection in patients.

Bailey said at the US National Chemical Society meeting, where his discovery was announced.

Bailey found that the juices markedly reduced the absorption of some medications into the bloodstream and that medications should often be taken with water only, preferably on an empty stomach.

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Bailey has been working with colleagues at the Lawson Health Research Institute Richard Kim and George Dresser.

Some prescription medications now carry labels warning against consuming grapefruit juice.

“He was a humble young man, and there were no big egos. He enjoyed the sciences, he enjoyed research,” Hill said.

Robert Gross is a medical scientist at the Roberts Research Institute. On social media, he wrote of Bailey: “He was a liberal for his time and told great stories. He made major contributions to our understanding of the clinical pharmacology of drugs and interactions with grapefruit juice.”

Bailey was also known as a world-class athlete. In 1966, he ran the mile in under four minutes at an event in San Diego, finishing in a time of 3:59.1 – making him the first Canadian and 74th person in the world to break the four-minute mark.

He ran the mile in under four minutes again in 1967, setting a Canadian record at the time of 3:57.7.

“I had nothing left in the tank. I was going as fast as I could, but I felt I would never get to the finish line,” Billy said of the 1966 race in a later interview. “I finally dragged myself across the finish line and thought I missed it, until he showed me Bill (Crowthers, his teammate and 1968 Olympic silver medalist) has his stopwatch.”

Died by his wife, 50-year-old Barbara Bailey, he died by means of three children, seven grandchildren, one sister, and several in-laws.