Proust questionnaire: Ian Gillespie, MD

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 52, No. 7, September 2010, Page 378 Proust for Physicians

Cartoon portrait of Ian Gillespie

The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that in answering these questions an individual reveals his or her true nature. BCMA president Dr Ian Gillespie recently completed the questionnaire, providing BCMJ readers with an inside look at the personality of this Victoria psychiatrist We will continue to ask individual physicians to complete the questionnaire, but we also encourage you to complete it.


What profession might you have pursued, if not medicine?
Marine biology, biomedical engineering, or computer science. Aviation, if I had better vision.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Playing a musical instrument—maybe it was a mistake to start with the bagpipes.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Things I have invented.

Who are your heroes?
Simon Whitfield, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
It’s not like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—it’s maintaining an attitude of acceptance and appreciation in the face of life’s challenges.

What is your greatest fear?
As a child, I was afraid of the dark and deep water. My recreational choices have cured me of that.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Procrastination and being late.

What characteristics do your favorite patients share?
Courage and a sense of humor.

Which living physician do you most admire?
Lots of them. In Victoria, Dr Patrick MacLeod comes to mind for his top-level skills as a scientist, educator, and compassionate clinician.

What is your favorite activity?

On what occasion do you lie?
I am most inclined to lie to tell someone what they want to hear, or to avoid feeling shame, but it feels much better to be honest, in spite of the risks.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Starting a sentence with “So…”

Where would you most like to practise?
I’ve been very content in Victoria. Until 2 years ago, I kept my Minnesota licence active because of reciprocity with other US states.

What technological medical advance do you most anticipate?
A better understanding and treatment for migraine headaches. I count my­self fortunate in not having them, and I see how disabling they can be to those who have them severely or frequently.

What is your most marked characteristic?

What do you most value in your colleagues?
Compassion and honesty.

Who are your favorite writers?
A fiction work called Shibumi by an author with the pen-name Trevanian still stands out as a great read. A favorite classic is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. The most recent fiction I read was an amazing book, The Outcast by Sadie Jones (winner of the Costa First Novel award). This one is hard to put down.

How would you like to die?
At home, surrounded by family, like my mother did. 

Tell us a bit about yourself. Please complete and submit a Proust Questionnaire—your colleagues will appreciate it.

Click here to complete our online survey.
Print a .pdf copy, complete it, and either fax (604 638-2917) or mail it (BCMJ 115-1665 West Broadway, Vancouver BC V6J 5A4).
E-mail E-mail us and we’ll send you a blank MS Word document to complete and return. 
604 638-2858. Call us and we’ll mail you a copy to complete and return by mail
115-1665 West Broad­way
Vancouver BC V6J 5A4


Dr Gillespie is the current president of the BC Medical Association. Read his interview here.



. Proust questionnaire: Ian Gillespie, MD. BCMJ, Vol. 52, No. 7, September, 2010, Page(s) 378 - Proust for Physicians.

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