Healthy Living

Fighting Alzheimer’s by Flying Around the World

After losing his brother to Alzheimer's, this doctor wants to spread awareness by flying around the world.

Fighting Alzheimer’s by Flying Around the World

Dr. Ed Galkin, 82, wants to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. His older brother died from compilations of Alzheimer’s two years ago, and Dr. Galkin does not want to see this happen for others.

He plans to jump into the cockpit of his 976 Cessna 210 and fly around the world to raise funds and bring awareness to the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s disease. So far, he has raised more than $4,000 – all without flying. It is Dr. Galkin’s goal to raise at least $25,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association.

If all goes well, Dr. Galkin would leave from Central Jersey Regional Airport in Manville, NJ at 9:30 am. He expects to return in early December. Dr. Galkin and his co-pilot Marty Balk have sketched out an itinerary that includes Azores Island, St. John’s in Newfoundland, Cyprus, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirate, Mallorca, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Alaska, and Japan. The longest part of their journey will be 2,500 miles from Japan to Alaska.

Can Dr. Galkin and Mary Balk do it? Most of their stops will be in places where they have never been before, and they plan on staying only a couple of days at each location. They are hoping that the weather and mechanical issues will not be problems.

"Always a thrill to go — not every general aviation pilot gets to land in these places," Galkin said. "We are enjoying doing this, but what makes it exciting for us is knowing that what we are doing is hopefully going to get us to a cure for Alzheimer's a little bit faster. It's our hope."

What Inspired this Journey?

Dr. Galkin says of his journey, "All of a sudden, something hit me — that I wanted to [go on] one more flight around the world." He goes on, "I knew I wanted to do it for a disease that was important to me and Alzheimer's hit me right in the front of my head. I asked Marty if he wanted to go around the world with me. He had always wanted to do this with me. He said, 'I'm in.'"

Dr. Galkin is doing this for his brother who died of Alzheimer’s, as well as for others like his brother. Dr. Galkin is a periodontist and has a practice in Woodbridge and is on the staff at Hackensack Meridian Health JFK Medical Center. His brother, who passed away, Dr. Sam Galkin, was an orthodontist who had a practice in the same building. Dr. Galkin and his brother joined the JFK Medical Center team in the 1960s and both have been active on the dentistry board in New Jersey. Both men served in the military – Dr. Galkin in the Air Force and his brother in the Navy.

Dr. Sam Galkin was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease just before his death at age 83. The family reports that the last eight months of Sam’s life included a rapid descent into forgetfulness and ill health. Eighteen months before he passed away, Sam Galkin did not know who he was. He did not know his family and what his name was. Says Dr. Galkin, “It’s terrible. That was a tough death.”

Stay Active and Busy

Galkin loves what he does for a living, but he loves the skies just as much. He remembers his father taking him to see planes taking off and landing at the Newark airport. After he received his medical degree in dentistry from Tufts University and served as a captain in the Army Dental Corps, Dr. Galkin received his pilot’s license in 1970. He has logged more than 6,000 hours of flying time.

In an interview with My Central Jersey, Dr. Galkin says, "I fell in love with flying when was about 6 or 7 years old," said Galkin, who holds a litany of certifications and licenses as a pilot including commercial, instrument rating, Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), Certified Flight Instrument Instructor (CFII), multi-engine and sea plane rating. "I always thought I would love to do something like that. As soon as I opened my dental practice, I went up with one of my friends who was general aviation pilot and six months later I had my pilot's license. I just fell. I was madly in love with it before, and when I got my plane, it was even more exciting for us."  

How remarkable that Dr. Galkin can do something he loves in the name of a good cause.

Dr. Galkin hopes that his flight will bring an awareness of Alzheimer’s to the world. He wants to be a model for keeping his mind active and taking care of himself and promoting Alzheimer’s research.  Dr. Galkin is indeed a great representation of what someone passed the age of retirement can do to stay mentally fit. He flies, he maintains his dental practice full-time and he has not slowed down at all.

Dr. Galkin’s colleague, Dr. Martin H. Herman, a neurologist at the Hackensack Meridian Health Group, JFK Neuroscience Institute who specializes in Alzheimer’s agrees with Dr. Galkin. Staying active in mind and body can help stave off a disease like Alzheimer’s. Dr. Herman claims that exercise, challenging your mind, in addition to a healthy diet are all protections against Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Galkin’s Activities

This flight is not Dr. Galkin’s first rodeo. He flew his Cessna in the 1980s to the UK, Australia and around the world. He has also flown his plane over the Atlantic Ocean, and in 1997 he flew to Portugal, France, and England. In 2004 he flew around the world with stops in Easter Island, Peru, Tahiti, Australia, Brazil South Africa, and Trinidad.

His flight in 2004 was also a fundraising trip. His goal during that trip was to raise money and bring awareness to fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive or FOP, which is a rare connective tissue disease whose symptoms include turning muscle tissues into bone. Paralysis is the result of this disease. At that time Dr. Galkin flew his plane for someone with FOP, Whitney Weldon who was in her early twenties when she contracted the disease.

This charitable fight raised more than $50,000 for the battle against FOP. Since then, the gene that causes the paralysis has been discovered, and the disease is slowly being eradicated. Dr. Galkin and his friend Balk hope to be able to do the same thing for Alzheimer’s – raise money and help with research.

Dr. Galkin and Marty Balk are both experienced in flying. Balk is a ham radio operator, owns an aviation radio shop, and has a commercial pilots certificate. He also has an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, an Airframe and Powerplant mechanics certificate with inspection authorization, a CFII and a DC-3 type rating. He also owns Martin Aviation LLC an aircraft consulting company. This company helps people find aircraft and pilot certificates.

Both men are experienced, talented and able. They will make history and bring more awareness to Alzheimer’s disease and help fund more research. Salute Dr. Galkin and Marty Balk for their courage and determination.