Lives of the fellows

Hugh Robert Gilmore

b.9 January 1921 d.26 December 2003
MB BS Adelaide(1945) MRACP(1948) MRCP(1950) FRACP(1959) FRCP(1973)

Edward Colin Gilmore was a marine engineer. He was persuaded to leave the sea and take a shore job in the Electricity Trust of Adelaide by Grace Brown. They subsequently married and Hugh was the older child. He had one sister.

He did well at Largs Bay Primary School and was granted a three year scholarship at Scotch College. He obtained a job at Adelaide University as a Cadet in the Anatomy Department under Professor Frank Goldby and picked up the necessary subjects for the pre-clinical years of medicine in the those three years. He joined the medical stream in third year and commenced a longstanding friendship with Ronald Hunter and Basil Hetzel. They formed a formidable academic triumvirate of students. He graduated with distinction in 1945, delayed by a short bout of tuberculosis, a common medical student complication at the time. After a period of normal hospital internships he took a job as physician and finally Deputy Superintendent at the Broken Hill Hospital. Despite the heavy workload and lack of academic support he was able to pass the membership of the Australasian College of Physicians in 1948 whilst working at Broken Hill. He left the hospital in 1949. Another major incident in his life occurred around this time – he married a nurse, Jeanette Paterson.

Now came the mandatory pilgrimage to the United Kingdom for them for further experience and in this case Hugh did very well. He worked as Registrar and Tutor under John McMichael at Hammersmith and then as Senior Registrar to Paul Wood at the National Heart Hospital, two excellent appointments. Both men were leaders in the field of cardiology. During the period in the United Kingdom Hugh gained membership of the Royal College of Physicians.

Hugh returned to Australia in 1954 as Senior Lecturer in Professor Norrie Robson’s newly formed Department of Medicine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH). This gave him many opportunities for teaching and also among other things to develop in Adelaide some of the techniques he had seen overseas. In fact he was able to develop facilities for cardiac catheterization and perform the first of these procedures in Adelaide at that time paving the way for the development of well equipped laboratory facilities a few years later. His knowledge of paediatric cardiology was of great value at the Adelaide Children's Hospital. He was employed for a session a week there and developed a portfolio of well documented cases of the standard disorders. These formed the pool for cardiac surgery in Adelaide much later.

Times were changing and the alternatives that faced Hugh were whether to become the traditional general physician of the day or to become a specialist in the field of cardiology. The RAH staffing system was based at that time on the general physician principle. Specialist physicians were still battling for simple admission rights and specialist medical beds were still in the future. I think Hugh rather liked the idea of the Senior Physician working on his own with opportunity and responsibility for widespread teaching and with his wide knowledge of medicine did not like the idea of exiting from some areas. An assistant general physician position became vacant at the Hospital and he occupied the post from 1958 to 1970, becoming a full senior physician from 1970 to 1986. He still attended and contributed to many of the cardiological meetings though he no longer performed cardiac investigations.

Hugh was a tenacious diagnostician with a wide knowledge of his subject. He attracted many difficult diagnostic problems from his fellow physicians. Many also paid him the ultimate compliment by seeking his advice on their own problems.

He was respected for his personal integrity and as a result was called upon to serve on many hospital committees, for a period of time as Chief of Staff.

Life became a little more difficult for Hugh after retirement from the RAH. He missed the stimulus of the student population and the interaction with his colleagues, although he was still to be seen at meetings around the hospital on numerous occasions. Hugh had been supported throughout his life by his wife, Jeanette, a gracious lady of exceptional warmth and understanding. When she died four years before his death a light went out of his life which never fully returned. Hugh and Jeanette had five children, all successful in various fields and all contributed fully to support Hugh in his later years.

He had a great love and knowledge of classical music, particularly organ music. However, Hugh’s real hobby was medicine.

It is no secret that Hugh, like many other community leaders, suffered from bi-polar disorder. It is a tribute to his sense of purpose that despite this handicap he was able to contribute so much to his patients, his hospital and to South Australian medicine.

J L Waddy

[Reproduced, with permission, from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ College Roll]

(Volume XII, page web)

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