On 24 October 2019, the medical profession lost one of its most loyal and dedicated supporters. Mr James Edward Gilmore, retired director of communications and one of the few non-physician honorary members of the BC Medical Association (as Doctors of BC was formerly called) died at the age of 89 years in Victoria.
Jim was born on 19 April 1930 in Vancouver, where he lived most of his life. He is survived by his sister (Gerry), two children (Tracy and Dan), three grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and a number of adopted children from previous marriages. Jim’s career in the communications industry began as copy boy at the Province at age 15, and subsequently as a sportswriter and columnist at the News Herald and Vancouver Sun. He branched out into the public relations field as executive director of the California Optometric Association and acquired an interest in politics. He returned to Canada and became the chief of staff for federal cabinet minister, the Hon. Ronald (Ron) Basford, and later become the first public relations manager for the Royal Bank in BC.
In the early 1970s the BCMA was suffering attacks from both within and without the organization, and a decision was made to hire a public relations expert to regain public support for organized medicine and offset the government’s public relations offensive. The BCMA hired Jim in 1973 as its first director of communications.
Jim had a transformative impact on organized medicine during his 20-year tenure at the BCMA. He convinced BCMA leaders that the profession would get nowhere if it dedicated its resources to reacting to crises whenever the government imposed its power against the profession. Although individual British Columbians (including politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, academics, and others) had immense trust and support for their own individual doctors, that was not generally the case for doctors as a group. Jim obtained BCMA budget support to establish a superb Department of Communications that developed ongoing campaigns demonstrating to the public that organized medicine was an important segment of society, particularly in the development of public policy for the betterment of British Columbians. Jim’s multifaceted communication programs, both internally and externally facing, became the envy of other medical associations across Canada and outside Canada, winning many public relations awards. This strategy, along with the work of the Economics Department, was very effective in improving the financial situation for BC doctors, and the payment schedule rose to become the highest in Canada on an overall basis and remained there throughout most of Jim’s 20 years as director of communications.
In addition to the honorary membership bestowed upon him by the BCMA, Jim was also given the Pat Monk Memorial Award for his contributions to public relations by the Canadian Public Relations Society. Those interested in learning more about Jim’s storied career should read Dr Brad Fritz’s article in the January/February 2017 issue of the BC Medical Journal online at www.bcmj.org/special-feature/mr-jim-gilmore%E2%80%94one-good-guys.
Doctors of BC owes a great debt to Mr James Edward Gilmore.
—Norman D. Finlayson, MD
Former Executive Director, BCMA (1986–98)
|Jim in his favorite deerstalker hat.|
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