Jim E. Gilmore, M.D., grew up in a town so small it didn't even have a post office. The president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS) was raised on a farm in Liberty Hill, Texas. His family had little money, yet he was industrious and curious, spending his childhood days caring for livestock and playing on acres of rolling hills dense with pine trees.
His mother took care of their home while his father, a World War I veteran, ran the printers of the local newspaper. After high school, a leg injury prevented Dr. Gilmore from being accepted into the U.S. Military Academy at the time. He decided to go to Texas A&M and enrolled in Army ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps).
A solid work ethic, intellectual curiosity and ambition all guided Dr. Gilmore in his pursuits. These were fostered by his teachers and his parents who believed in the importance of education and his aunt, a world traveler, who spoke to him about a larger world.
"I wanted to excel. I think this desire came from my parents and in every chance I was given," he says.
At Texas A&M, Dr. Gilmore says his decision to pursue medicine was not something he had planned yet the discipline suited him well.
"My mind was open to all possibilities and here, by chance, there was a pre-med program." he says. "I feel fortunate now that I had the opportunity to study medicine."
Finding surgical niche
Dr. Gilmore worked hard.
After graduating from medical school at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, he became a captain in the Medical Corps of the United States Air Force, serving in Grand Forks, N.Dak. He was a general medical officer working in obstetrics and surgery.
"I did obstetrics and liked it. I had a rotation in which I lived in the hospital for three months and realized I wanted to be a surgeon," he says.
While talking with an otolaryngologist in North Dakota, his interest was piqued. He says he liked the challenge of pursuing a surgical specialty comprehensive of the head and neck.
"Because the head and neck anatomy are so complicated, this specialty really interested me," he says.
Following graduation, Dr. Gilmore went on to complete residencies in otolaryngology at Parkland Memorial Hospital and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas.
Mentor lights the way
Among mentors who greatly influenced him, Dr. Gilmore counts Donald Seldin, M.D., professor and William Buchanan Chair in Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.
"He talked about the importance of knowing the whole body. He said a true scientist works diligently to solve problems and works toward finding the truth."
The "truth," he says, is a scientific truth — knowledge that comes as a result of objective inquiry. This should all be the basis for treatment, which always should focus primarily on the benefit of the patient, Dr. Gilmore says.
"This idea inspired me. I wanted to continue this pursuit for my whole career — I consider it a passion, a scientist's quest," he says.
He adds that a true scientist also thinks hard about separating fiction from fact in judging what treatments are effective. Dr. Gilmore finds a very practical application for this credo: new technology.
Technology meets philosophy
"Cosmetic surgeons need to be the best scientists they can be," Dr. Gilmore says.