Dr. Benjamin Gilmer is a family physician and Associate Professor at the UNC School of Medicine/Mountain Area Health Education Center’s (MAHEC) Family Medicine Residency Program. He attended Davidson College and studied medicine at the Sorbonne and East Carolina University. As the Medical Director for MAHEC’s Rural Health Initiative and Rural Fellowship in Asheville, NC., he is passionate about advocating for global and rural health disparities.
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He has worked extensively in Central and South America and West Africa. Benjamin is committed to advancing medical education, interprofessional collaboration and inspiring students to pursue service in medicine. His advocacy work currently focuses on bringing media attention to the social injustice of treating mental illness in our prison system. His recently released memoire, “The Other Dr. Gilmer” (Ballantine/PRH) highlights this injustice. His work has been featured in the NYT Book Review, The Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, and People Magazine. His This American Life Podcast, “Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde,” has had more than 20 million listeners. A former neurobiologist turned rural family doctor, Dr. Gilmer has lectured across the country about medical ethics, rural health, bias in medicine, and the intersection of medicine and advocacy. He lives with his wife, Deirdre, and two children, Kai and Luya, in Asheville, North Carolina.
Dr. Gilmer’s Prescription for Success:
Number 1: The first step is curiosity.
Number 2: Develop a process for inquiry.
Number 3: Be open to transformation.
Number 4: Give yourself an opportunity to vision.
Number 5: Be an advocate.
Connect with Dr. Gilmer
Books: The Other Gilmer
Notable quotes from Dr. Gilmer’s interview:
I was confused on what my path should be.
If we commit ourselves to advocacy our voices can be heard by many more people than we could imagine.
You walk in there, and you can feel like there’s another life in that clinic.
The Judicial system doesn’t really think the way we do as physicians.
I was trying to be open to listening to their stories, and their stories were affecting me.
Discovering I was walking in the footsteps of a presumed cold-blooded murder made it tenuous.
The person I imagined was not the person we discovered.
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Access the Show Transcript Here
[0:00] You know the holidays are a very busy time and as we approach this year’s season we’d like to hear about your experiences working the holidays as a healthcare professional.
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[0:46] Paging dr. cook paging dr. cook dr. Kirk you’re wanted in the o.r. dr. Koh.
[1:18] Hello everyone and welcome to prescription for Success I’m dr. Randy cook your host for the podcast which is a production of mg coaches.
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[1:55] My interview guest today is dr. Benjamin Gilmer a family medicine physician in Western North Carolina and the author of a fascinating new book the other doctor Gilmer,
two men I’ll murder and on unlikely fight for justice.
[2:13] It’s a fascinating read and a great example of just how truth really can be Stranger Than Fiction so let’s hear my conversation,
with dr. Benjamin Gilmer I’m looking forward to a fascinating conversation today with dr. Benjamin Gilmer.
Who is up in Western North Carolina I believe you know looking at your CV Benjamin I’m not sure exactly where you’re located now so why don’t you tell us that to get us started
I’m in Asheville North Carolina and are you still associated with the Cane Creek Clinic.
[2:53] That I read about in your book yes I work for that Mountain Area health education perfect Center which is Nashville and and I see my patients today,
as follow-up Clinic outside of asphalt called concrete.
They are very fortunate to have you at least by my assessment you have a fascinating story and I really want to get to the subject of your book but before we get into that territory we really like to,
talk about the origin story and I’m interested to know when you first got interested in studying medicine.
I became very interested in in medicine at an early age because my father was the here and the Pastoral,
education department and Charlotte at the hospital and so I was always running around the hospital as a boy and sod saw patients like through,
through his experience I caring about them and then when at age 16 I told my dad I wanted to work in the hospital we said okay so he put me in the.
Called his friend at the hospital and I worked for the summer and the kitchen washing dishes so that would place to start yes that was my first experience and then I had told him the next summer that I really.
I wanted to do something different not hospital and so I started working in the emergency department and I did that for.
[4:16] Josh ten consecutive Summers that throughout undergraduate school and wow throughout high school and then started doing research for the Department of Emergency medicine.
So you know what the inside of a hospital looked like and how it worked I roamed every inch of the hospital as a as a teenager,
I did and so then you
started your undergraduate education at Davidson graduated 92 as I have it with a degree in neurobiology Psychology and French
it’s not a tyrannical curriculum that we find for someone headed to Medical,
practice so you want to talk about that a bit I was confused about yeah the world and I wanted to learn everything and and.
[5:06] Stay true to my goal of going into medicine but I became deeply fascinated with neurobiology and so that that really prompted me to delve into studies that,
that ultimately ended up with an doing a masters and their attacks ecology and then after Davidson I went to France for two years and learned that I could go to med school for free so I was teaching in a public high school in France and then went to this to the sorbonne,
during the evenings for med school for two years and that that was a really great opportunity just to,
destroyed test my you know how bad I wanted to be a medicine and then came back to learn.
[5:47] How many did what were you convinced at that point I was I mean I was also like deeply intrigued by what teaching looked like it was because I was teaching in high school and
what’s confused a little bit about what my path would be it so I came back from France to finish my
my Master’s research and taught in a high school and Charlotte for four years and that really empowered me to do want to be a teaching doctor so then I applied again in North Carolina and finish my studies here.
[6:16] With the intention of being an academic doctor which I’m doing now yeah indeed you are you got your MD in 2006
because I have it in my notes and make sure to correct me if I’m wrong you went ahead and did your Family Medicine Residency right there in the
my heck system that’s the what I want you to do is give me the
word behind all these initials in May heck me heck is that the Mountain Area health education center so we’re part of that a hex system
that exists throughout the country in fact May heck
was the very first a heck in the whole country and we’re probably slam biggest ahec organization in the whole country so we’re responsible for Distributing and providing a health education to the 18 counties of Western North Carolina
west of Asheville
so that’s where you did your Family Medicine Residency and it sounds like it must have really agreed with you and you decided that you wanted to stay in that area
when you got into practice and,
as I understand it you had the place picked out where you wanted to go but there were some questions involved when you applied for that job so you want to go ahead and tell us about that yeah we came to Asheville from
moving from New York City where my wife was was working at the time and with the intention of like.
[7:40] Really planting Roots here because we’ve grown up in Charlotte and always loved this area so it was it was such a natural fit and the people that
we’re leaving the department where people that I sought out as mentors
so it was a perfect fit for us and we wanted to stay and I wanted to join the faculty but the only faculty job available after graduating
was this new tiny little clinic 18 miles outside of Asheville.
That was the first sort of satellite clinic for me heck and it was just getting on its feet after having been closed for for several years for about four years and was struggling to kind of prop itself up back as a clinic.
[8:20] And so I went to the board and told him I wanted to consider this job
during the interview I learned that many things I learned that the clinical struggling and they were resuscitating it because the previous Doctor Who had started the clinic.
Was serving a life sentence in prison for killing his father and then I learned that we shared the same name the same last name so hence was born,
more than decade-long,
a journey to try to understand what all that and that’s at the time and the first they didn’t want to give me the job they were concerned I was going to comment on that I that I learned in the book that you had a lot of enthusiasm for
being in this place it seemed like a good fit for you and even when your interviewers,
suggested that there could be some potential problems you seem to be unfazed at that point so in large on that a little bit tell us a little bit more about what they were thinking and what you were thinking
I was thinking that just wanted a job I was trying to get my career started I had two young children and mountains of debt to pay so I was ready to get started and excited to be in a rural community and,
to be in a site where one of my other friends who might call Donato is also working and I hadn’t I didn’t pay any attention to this other doctor Gilmer I didn’t know what happened to him
I knew there was a murder of some sorts but yet the time I really didn’t care I just.
[9:48] I wanted to to get my life going and this was the sort of the perfect opportunity to keep one foot and.
Academics and then another foot in terms of just learning how to be a doctor and I would imagine that you were thinking and please correct me if I’m wrong but I would imagine that you might have been thinking this this grisly murder happened.
[10:10] Several years before and you would have thought that perhaps nobody’s really talking about this anymore but that turned out not to be the case didn’t.
Well that’s right I mean the the murder had happened like five years before you know I just didn’t see how it related to me at the time and I certainly didn’t extrapolate what it what the implications could be I was
just trying to move forward until I started hearing stories about the other dr. Gilmore and his name is Vince Gilmer,
and because I inherited many of his patients and they were they all wanted to talk about him they wanted to share stories about him because they had never really had the opportunity to talk about it and share it.
Share stories with anyone else did that surprise you at all.
[10:56] No didn’t surprise me because I mean my name is dr. Gilmore I mean some people thought that I was like some kind of Reincarnation of had more or maybe I was a brother or a cousin or,
people were confused you know.
Precipitated panic attacks and patience and others who hurt my name and turn and left the building so.
People who thought that maybe he had gotten out of prison you know so his like his presence was like still palpable.
In the building it’s a small building it’s only about 1,300 square feet and you walk in there and you you can feel that there is another you know another life in that prison that.
Clinic before us he was the guy who built the walls in that clinic and so it was no surprise to me that they wanted to,
talk about it but I was surprised at what they said about him was that he was a beloved doctor and some of them even asked me to be more like him they saw him as like such a gem of a doctor that.
They just couldn’t stop talking about his presence and his his humility and his desire to be proximate to the community and to you know.
[12:08] You never paid attention to the clock like he was just fully present with his patients and they loved that about him.
[12:16] So I started thinking news well I thought it was a little strange you know at first then that they would be speaking so like their words would be so endearing but,
and I thought it was strange to that all of a sudden I was starting to compare myself to him because he was.
He was kind of a template for what that Community wanted and I was realizing that you know I what I had you know come from.
A bigger city and you know I was I didn’t grow up in Western North Carolina so you know I was like an outsider and and and trying to listen to I was trying to be open to listen to their stories,
and their stories were affecting me stories begged me to want to know more about him as a person and as a neurobiologist I wanted to know more about what happened to his brain like how could this good doctor,
how could he have done such a horrific act to kill his father and he did it quite brutally yeah so I was deeply curious about.
[13:16] What happened to him and ultimately decided that I needed to know more and one of the things that I love the most about the book is,
you know it’s one of these events that makes you think how can this be a random event but
it seemed to me the event that really began to
get you over the inertia and get you started in this investigation of the other dr. Gilmore was a conversation with a fellow that you met at the farmers market am I reading that right,
so I did meet a gentleman at the farmers market who has sort of been his right-hand man,
it was a little bit anxious to talk to me at first but you know this concept of like was this coincidence was this fate you know I assume began to,
sort of experience it as as.
Estate you know there were so many intertwined like elements of the story that for example I can,
2003 my first rotation clinical rotation in medical school I was hoping it would be in the emergency department where I felt comfortable,
but instead they threw me and brought in the hospital which is the was originally called the Western North Carolina insane asylum but now it’s.
[14:31] It’s one of our public hospitals that have provides care to the severe mentally ill for all 20 counties of the western part of the state.
And so there that summer I discovered many things like use my baptism in medicine and discovered what mental health.
Looked like but I also discovered a man on the geriatric floor whose name was Dalton Gilmer.
And that man I didn’t know anything about other than he was a been residing at the hospital for a year or two that he could no longer walk.
He was mostly demented and that was Vince Kilmer’s father and so I well I met him the year before he was murdered before he was killed in 2004,
that is where two amazing so that’s that’s really where the story began for me and it was as powerful to recognize that.
That our paths had crossed before before if it went to residency before I got this job before I started learning about vents Gilmer the other doctor Gilmer.
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[17:09] And now let’s get back to today’s interview.
[17:17] So at that point you were clearly.
Interested enough to want to explore the whole story much more deeply and I happened to though because I’ve heard the interview myself that you were visited by a fairly famous radio journalist Peabody,
winning radio journalist Sarah Koenig who actually wanted to.
[17:41] Publicize the story tell me tell me about that event so Sarah who’s amazing journalist who was also responsible for the serial podcast which is the.
[17:50] Number one listen to podcasts in the history of all podcast she she called me and said hey I heard about your story.
Drew my cousin like it was it was it was a cousin saw her and met her and said oh I guess you’re not going to believe what’s going on with my cousin he has this crazy story that’s happening
and she asked me if I wanted to do a story and I said no way you know this that was the last thing that I had on my mind at the time.
[18:19] Because I was starting to feel a little paranoid about about what was happening after hearing from another patient that the other dr. Gilmore was getting out of prison and I would be an easy target for him because I had sort of assumed his life,
and stolen all of the things that he cherished like his practice and so we were about of the fact that you knew that he had life without parole.
[18:44] You were a little worried about.
Your own safety well I didn’t know that he had life without parole at the time I had I had investigated that I just knew he was in prison assumed he would be there for a long time but didn’t know.
Any of the details I so this sort of set up this chain reaction of a paranoia that lasted for a while and ultimately I decided that.
Well in order to continue practicing and at Cane Creek I had to either figure out what happened to him I needed to go meet him.
Or I needed to leave like one of those three options needed to happen and so I later called Sarah back and said you know Sarah I would I would actually love your help too.
Really dig deep into the story because it would be nice to have you know a journalist helped push me to get get to the details of my life was were spinning out of control the time of two young kids and trying to learn how to be a doctor and.
[19:39] New academic pressures like it was it was a challenging time and you know I think all Physicians relate to this those early years of medicine when you’re just trying to.
Figure yourself out and figure out a practice and keep people alive like it’s it’s it’s a it’s an intense time in,
a lot of pressure that was walking in the footsteps of a presumed cold-blooded murder with the same name made it even more tenuous so I asked her to come in,
and to dig in with me to do a six-month inquiry into what happened and that’s what we did,
we sleuth together for for six months well that must have been pretty exciting did she I mean did she,
like move into town or did she visit periodically how did that whole process work she came to Asheville several times and.
[20:27] Spent a couple weeks with me and clinic and you know we went to Virginia many times together the dig up court records and do interviews and
and then ultimately we went to the prison to meet Vince Gilmer which and I’m interested to know if was that your idea was it her idea was a sort of a mutual
let’s do this thing how did that come about it’s pretty brave by the way well I don’t know how Brave it is it was something that you know if you’re going to do a deep inquiry,
you have to you have to go to the primary source and and I you know I wanted to meet him,
and you know I was really fearful about it for a long time like I built up the sort of image of my mind sort of torn between this ghost-like figure
and this beloved doctor figure and was kind of stuck in the middle not knowing exactly who this person was and I wrote him a letter,
I finally heard back from him and you know the letter was written in like childlike writing that was like a madman scroll.
[21:28] And I can barely decipher some of the words but the last last two words that could decipher were please help and wow at that point I knew that you know we couldn’t tell the story without going to meet.
The other doctor Gilmer to meet Vetter and so that’s what we did and that was very revealing and let me ask one other thing about the the Prelude to your.
[21:54] Your first interviews or your first meetings with Vince Gilmer were you,
aware at that point of the nature of his trial this trial that sent him,
a life sentence where he was trying to defend himself where you would were you aware of those details before you met him now I mean I knew that he had a life sentence I knew that he strangled his father and,
mutilated his hands I knew those things but.
I knew that he had fired his lawyers and represented himself pro se but I didn’t read the transcript of the trial at that,
and so tell us a little bit about that first meeting well for anyone who’s gone to a prison you can you can recognize that it’s you know it’s a,
uncertain experience one that for me was was a big one because I had lived a very sheltered life up in until these days
as a privileged person who grew up with all the amenities that he needed for success and you know,
most people who live in the suburbs don’t go to prisons and so it was you know it was a big Awakening moment for me to see what a prison looks like to be inside of a prison too.
[23:10] To see the souls who live in those walls and then to finally meet that’s Kilmer and to hear more about his experience so.
I was very naive up to that moment about what mass incarceration was what the prison experience was and and understanding the dichotomy between,
but what people on the outside believe about prisons and what life inside prisons actually are challenged by the notion that you know what we think might be Rehabilitation is is non-existent in most prisons,
and so it was it was shocking I was I was very nervous like that first visit and.
[23:48] It was just like the unknowing of not knowing what to expect with with the other doctor Gilmer but he finally sort of made his way up to our table while Sarah and I awaited him in the person that I imagined was not the person we discovered what we discovered was this.
Older much older appearing frail man was,
you know stooped over you had who had these like dyskinesia sore these shaking gestures in his hands and in his face and who was really struggling to communicate.
But he was struggling to walk he was struggling to communicate so didn’t certainly didn’t match up with us you know this cold-blooded murder or title which the judge had given him
after they swiftly convicted him and so so then the story really started to change because I started to see,
Prince Kilmer the man now as someone who was clearly a frail.
Person who is just barely surviving prison that was the first visit you know it’s interesting because during the trial.
The deems that he was clinically a malingerer.
That he was faking the same symptoms that I was witnessing and during that time he fired all of his lawyers so that would have been the most lunatic written thing for any person to do for your own murder trial.
Of course and is interesting because the way that he was described during his trial was exactly what I was seeing in person.
[25:12] And so his symptoms were very consistent with what they described back in 2004 did that precipitate any profound surprise on your part that that a person could have,
behaved in the way that you were seeing before you’re on I own eyes and.
[25:32] Yeah a judge would allow him to proceed to be his own attorney did that.
Did that surprise you at all it surprised me a lot when I read the book and one of the first questions that I had at that point so I’m wondering what your feelings were at that point.
Well at that point I hadn’t read the trial but it completely surprised me after I immediately.
And I immediately went back we went to the courthouse we pull the trial.
[25:59] And we both read all 800 pages of it and after reading the trial I was completely blown away because his behavior during his trial was
was nothing short of delusional and he was he was full of
multiple diagnoses that were never made in fact that the psychiatrist or psychologist evaluated him so that he had no known psychiatric illness whatsoever,
and that was just patently untrue so it dawned on me that
at that point that you know the judicial system doesn’t really think the way we do as Physicians like they everybody has their role in a trial you know the defense attorney has their role the prosecuting attorney has their their mission was which is to prosecute
and the judge gets stuck in the middle along with the jury,
and there’s lots of different forces that determine how someone will be perceived you know like the how the jury is made up is everything in a murder trial.
And for events he had the cards stacked against him because he didn’t have a lawyer that was his choice.
[27:05] But that should have signaled you know to anyone that he was unstable and then to hear his words and spoken word during the trial was I mean it was nothing short of like just come.
Being completely farcical and it’s a further underscore that the people who were
in charge of Prosecuting him were seeing the same things that you’re describing you weren’t they are present but you but you read this man’s words so you know the prosecuting attorney
the constable in the county where he was,
arrested and all those people who were in charge of building the case we’re seeing exactly what you read about later and they drew a completely.
[27:51] Different conclusion do you in fact I heard I think he was one of the law enforcement officers on.
The Sierra can’t caning interview explicitly said again and again and again that he had no doubt that this man was a cold-blooded murderer.
back to my question does it surprise you in any way that they were able to maintain that attitude in spite of what they were seeing right in front of them,
no it I mean it doesn’t mean it’s surprising like through the retrospective scope but what’s not surprising is that we are all Laden with you know internal,
intrinsic bias about things you know everyone is biased I later become became bias because I thought the fence Gilmer had a traumatic brain injury and that’s what likely affected his brain,
and turned him into towards this delusional Behavior.
You know like prosecutors they they have their biases the detective had his his bias in in he had good reason to have some of these biases.
[28:56] None of them these people were clinicians the psychologist was is not a physician it’s like I’ll just had his own biases he had been studying,
it has academic Niche was malingering so that would that inherently like pushed him in that direction I think
but I think this question of like where do our biases come from and being aware of our and you know intrinsic biases that’s that’s really important so when you you know what I think back upon it you know I don’t.
[29:26] I don’t think that you know the detective was not trying to do his job he was very much trying to do his job as well as the forensic psychologist they were everyone was doing their job but we’re so protected by our own left hemisphere by our own biases that
you know these mantras that are spawn over and over and you know the truth can be
very hard to discern sometimes so I you know I do.
I don’t want to be accusatory towards those people I think they were actually doing the best I could but when you look back advances case you start to realize wow this person was really biased in that direction.
Benjamin Gilmer was really biased in this direction and and then came the psychiatrist.
[30:10] Who was later who later became a person in a new prison that bends visited who inherit events is a patient after he tried to commit suicide in prison he was really free.
Of his biases and he was able to look at vents With A New Perspective with a sort of a tabula rasa perspective.
And that was really refreshing to me to see this man who had been practicing forensic psychiatry for almost 50 years and to start a relationship with him looking events in a different way but in my mind this this kind of.
Underscores the importance of our processes positions because as Physicians we you know we are all deeply biased as well but but Our intention is to do what’s best for the patient.
[30:58] At all cost and to advocate for for our patients and we need you know we try to free ourselves I think from from factors that really influence what we do with patients I mean we are certainly bound.
Too many of course but but I think is a practice our ability to see things through a clinical lens.
Helps helps us to see patients in a way that’s that’s more pure.
That’s that’s free free from some elements of bias and that was that was the approach that I was trying to take with vents to see him in that way should we understand that it was not.
Immediately apparent to those people who were in charge of Prosecuting the case that fence Gilmer was.
[31:43] A sick man But as time went on his symptoms began to worsen and it seems that.
Nobody ever asked the question aside from you as to whether or not we might have made a mistake here and.
I think that’s probably the most disturbing part of the entire story to me and that is I can see where a mistake.
It could easily happen in a case of this sort prosecutors.
Our paid to prosecute as vigorously as they can events essentially didn’t have.
Anyone representing him so it’s easy to see how that could have gone wrong but later on as his mental status began to deteriorate still no one seemed to take interest except for you.
[32:41] That bothered me a lot.
Thank you we should all be bothered a lot because of this and you know what became very apparent to me after meeting Ben’s for the second time so it’s here and I went back to meet him,
except for this time I took a friend with me rather than Sarah who is a psychiatrist and I wanted him to see bands through his lens,
and it was very apparent from him that he was not a sociopath,
it was not a malingerer that he was he was very ill and likely had a neurologic disease or some other disease and so that.
That enabled us very quickly to run through a list of diagnosis and to come up with with Huntington’s disease which we proposed to the prison and we were able to get them tested for that and it came back positive.
[33:31] And so what what’s more disturbing is the after you realize that a patient a prisoner,
incarcerated person once they have it a disease like that you would think that it would be easy to get them out or you would think that maybe people could change their opinion or their original by asiya biases about pants but that was,
not what happened and in fact most of the people dug in even deeper.
[33:58] And including the detective including the the judge the judge after.
We put this out there on the radio was inflamed and went to the governor of Virginia and tried to get the psychiatrist in the prison fired.
And ultimately he was fired this was the judge who presided over the original trial this was the judge who presided over Vince’s trial so that you know that’s an example of,
well that’s that’s vengeful Behavior,
which I couldn’t understand why you why he would do that but I think he was probably trying to silence what was happening
but you know so I’ve gone back over time and talked a lot of these people including the detective and the forensic psychologist to evaluate events and people in the present and.
You know it’s so interesting one once an idea is born once a belief is born and sort of Consolidated in someone’s mind it’s really really hard to change that belief system.
This is what we’re seeing in politics in America today even even though you understand what the truth Maybe,
if you have a belief system that doesn’t correspond with that belief it’s just so hard to change so you know many of these people still believe that Vince is a,
cold-blooded killer and not someone who is sick in this is you know one of those unusual situations where Vince has mental illness and is neurologic illness was.
[35:27] It was determined by a genetic test so you know we can’t do that with all psychiatric illnesses but what this one we can so there’s 100% certitude that Vince has this illness and there’s in my mind a hundred percent.
[35:39] You know started to that he should not be in prison and that positions you know should be the ones who can call that out.
Because we know that treatment for these very complex neurologic patients just cannot be delivered,
you know appropriately in prison so I think,
if we stretch ourselves we can we can understand that perhaps those people who originally prosecuted this case we’re in a state of mind where.
They just really didn’t want to be wrong they didn’t want to admit that they had.
[36:18] Sent someone to prison for doing something that they didn’t really have any control over and I can understand that I don’t like being wrong but when you went the next step when you went into the.
The territory of asking for review from the higher authorities.
Like the governor of Virginia it really didn’t go any better did it now so this was a big turning point for me as a young Doctor Who was trying to,
understand what my role in this process was I thought that we would be able to easily liberate him from prison and put them in a hospital though that was what,
what I thought was the best scenario and so I put together a legal team and we started to put together a clemency petition.
We had 2008 Governor McDonald who was the current governor of Virginia at the time because he was he was being indicted himself and was actually charged and was was heading to prison,
himself until the Supreme Court threw out his case.
[37:22] And you know so from the very beginning I started to realize that this process was not about the Hippocratic Oath.
It was not about Rehabilitation nor nor was it about punishment since it already been in prison for a decade at this point in time and.
Yeah I learned that this was really about politics and the getting him out of prison was going to be a you know a political gain.
This was a big wake-up for me because I just didn’t see I was naive really to the forces of what what keeps people in prison and what,
what puts them there in the first place so we applied for clemency we waited the new governor was a Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
And he waited for years.
And then on his last day in office rejected our clemency petition and at that point they they’re sort of understanding was that Vince wasn’t sick enough,
but he needed to be sicker before they would let him out so then we had to wait another 2 years in a way to new governor.
And we were so grateful because the next governor was governor Ralph Northam he was a neurologist.
And this was like you know I thought the stars were aligning that yeah that must have felt like a home run it felt like a home run we did and then we waited two years for him.
And six months before his last day in office he rejected our clemency petition.
[38:50] And then I was I was completely lost I thought that I just could not understand any of their reasoning and until I started.
Diving a little bit deeper into the politics of Virginia and some of the things that we’re going on with the parole board and how that influences the way people are let out.
[39:10] Can you share some of that with us because I would really like some Enlightenment I don’t I just don’t get it why I didn’t get it either I mean that the lawyers were always more pessimistic than me but essentially I mean they’re always forces at play Within any state.
Within any Governor’s mind is there doing the risk calculation and the risk calculation at that time was that the parole board had let someone.
Out of prison early before their sentence was over and that that person committed another Act of murder.
And so it just made it created a harsher environment the more conservative environment where where they were just more cautious to let anyone out,
after that so much for blindness at the scales of Justice well Benjamin listen this is just an incredibly.
Tragic story and I’m just I can’t say enough nice things.
About how well you told it in the book and I do want to encourage our listeners to go out and get the book it’s worth.
[40:21] Every minute that you spend with it and it certainly you know sometimes we can be.
A little loose with our assessment of life-changing moments but it really it really caused me to.
[40:35] To have some significant changes in the way that I look at the world and I think it’s a great read.
There’ll be very much worth it for everybody and I want to encourage people to get the book.
[40:48] I have really enjoyed this conversation with you and in fact I’d be happy to sit here for hours and hours but reality won’t allow that and what I think we’ll do at this point is I’ll back out of the way.
And let you go ahead with what we brought you here for I’ll close my mic and audience.
Dr. Benjamin Gilmer is going to give us his personal prescriptions for success
Randy do you mind if I say one more thing real quickly about your go right ahead about the book and this is something that’s important to me too,
I think encourage other Physicians to pursue their own advocacy Journeys in the speak out into to write and.
[41:29] Pursue Justice and everyone’s you know personalized way but the book for me was a unique way.
To kind of put my mind in a different place like to sort of experience the more creative side of that I’ve sort of forgotten about it as a doctor I say that because I think most of us as Physicians know that we live.
The left side of our brain all the time like that’s that’s where we reside that’s what it takes mostly to keep our patients doing well.
[41:58] And like the book for me was an opportunity to sort of Escape some of that and and.
Live into a creativity that I hadn’t experienced and so long and it became a tool so I didn’t write the book the other doctor Gilmer because.
I didn’t write it because I thought that.
I was a good writer or because you know I wanted to create some kind of entertainment for people I wrote it because it was really I wanted it to be a tool for advocacy and luckily luckily I
it ended up in the governor’s office and many people hopefully read it there but someone read it there and it was within a week of getting everyone in the governor’s office a copy.
That the governor decided to reverse his his clemency rejection and so at that point.
He granted the clemency appeal and then Spokane at least on paper a free Minn it’s just another example of.
[42:54] You know how our system is broken and why it’s so important I think for for doctors too.
Your to be spokespeople for advocacy and to biggest people people listen to us they see us as,
you know where some of the last remaining voices I think in our country where people see us as bringing authentic truth telling stories that are intended to be stories of change.
It said I I feel that’s what Capel compelled me to write this story was.
Was to do that to be use the book as a story for as an agent of change.
[43:32] Well Benjamin I really appreciate you sharing that with us and I’m really delighted to know that,
that you finally got the outcome that you were looking for that sort of restores my faith in humanity and I was really looking for something like that after I read the book so thank you again,
and at this point good place for us to allow you to speak on your own and give us your personal prescriptions for success.
Thank you Annie what does feel a little additions to be giving you my prescriptions for success but I this this whole book process has taught me many things and one of the things that it’s taught me is a framework that I’ve used very personally.
[44:14] For sort of a pathway towards advocacy.
In a way it’s sort of frames up the my pursuit of writing this book trying to tell Vince’s story and trying to be you know trying to bring a new voice a new clinical voice for advocacy,
in regards to why we incarcerate the mentally ill and the way I think about this is that the first,
sort of gateway to success in that could be however you define success but for me it’s curiosity like the first step is curiosity and I feel like his family doctors this is something we do really well we.
We remain deeply curious about things we try to expand our Focus where our spectrum of care and you know I think for anyone you know who maintains curious for a lifetime,
it just keeps your practice fresh and it keeps you know preserves your sort of childlike guys in a way and that’s that’s really important to have.
Continue or self-discovery so for me being curious about vents as an example being curious about this process of mass incarceration allowed me to enter into a better understanding
and it’s continued to sort of fuel this sort of passion that I’ve developed for for advocacy.
[45:34] So I you know that’s the easy first gateway number two would be to develop a process for inquiry.
[45:41] And you know we we are do this well in medicine like all.
All Physicians and Allied Health Providers like this is this is like one of our this is you know our niches is is delving into your process of inquiry whether that be for a patient.
For me it was sort of developing a pursuit of Journalism in a way.
And being open to what what that journalistic process was and you know in terms of writing the book like that process of inquiry took took years after the podcast so that was just a blip in terms of the.
This prolonged kind of process of inquiry and that’s that’s really important I think to have time to develop.
Inquiry not only into others entire patients but to also be more self-reflective.
And you know to think about ourselves and I want to say that you know as Physicians this is something we don’t do very well it’s really easy for us to.
[46:43] To inquire into others and it’s much much harder to turn that lens back on ourselves.
And for me writing this book was was a deeply intentional process of personal inquiry as well as requiring it to to bench Gilmer,
once you enter that process you know I think this step number three for success is this being open to transformation and for me that was the prison like going to the prison.
Being transformed by what I saw IE the tragedy of what mass incarceration means for most people especially those forty percent of people who have severe mental illness who are incarcerated.
[47:25] That’s about 800,000 people in America who represent that group and so you know because we work so hard in medicine.
Being open to a moment of transformation is often also very hard you know if we sort of flip it or pivot away from thinking about these stories that we hear from our patients.
There’s an opportunity to learn it makes us more available to be transformed by something.
And Vince was that very poignant moment for me too to really have my heart changed to be shifted from for my original belief about.
Incarceration was and what what punishment was so that’s really important step number four for me was having an opportunity to vision.
This can be also very hard for us as Physicians because we just don’t have time to vision and you know it’s no secret why sixty-three percent of Physicians are burned out today.
It’s because we don’t set aside time to vision and I’ve been very complicit in this to you like I have have not,
been an intentional Vision ER until this book like this writing process really forced me
to Vision in to think about this problem in a very different way and also to think about me the very different way because the book is.
It’s very much a personal Memoir but I think it’s we have to give ourselves the opportunity to have time in the freedom to be Visionaries because.
We do that so well I think it’s part of our natural intellectual process to to be problem solvers and Division.
[49:11] But we have to ask ourselves why why are there so few Physicians who are who are doing visioning work.
You know why is it that that the voice we hear on TV from medicine is Sanjay Gupta.
You know why are we not hearing other people who are telling is very important stories.
From communities who are so deeply impacted by how the medical system is affecting them and how life is affecting them.
So for me the visiting Quest was was seeing these things and actually giving myself time to sit down and reflect on them and to write about them,
and then the Fifth Fifth sort of step is if you can jump through all those Hoops as if you can be curious if you can commit yourself to a process of inquiry,
if you can allow yourself to be transformed and if you give yourself time to Vision then you can you know that sets you up to be an advocate.
[50:08] And I think all of us who have who have done some advocacy and some way and you know Advocate advocacy could be simply working with your patients on a one-to-one basis like that is.
Advocacy we do it all day long but I think it’s also important to recognize that that we do have voices.
As Physicians is Allied Health Providers and if we if we commit ourselves to advocacy.
Yeah our voices can be can be heard by by many more people than we could have imagined I never imagined that this podcast that we made together.
Could have had 20 million listeners which it currently does or that I could have written the book that’s been read by thousands of people now so I would encourage all of all of you all of us today.
Continue working towards this advocacy.
[50:57] Journey but it takes a lot of commitment and it also takes time and it’s going to take some change in our medical system to enable doctors to be able to.
[51:07] To start you know thinking and living in a different way that that brings forth you know more creative opportunities,
so those are my prescriptions for success I hope that’s helpful,
well dr. Benjamin Gilmer you have certainly picked up quite a bit of wisdom as a part of authorship of this book as well as the way you’ve lived your life I think and I really appreciate you being here with me
share your thoughts and share your wisdom it’s been very instructional for me it’s been very enriching for me and I’m grateful that you
were able to join us before we go I want to give you an opportunity to,
tell our audience where you can be found where they can get the book where they can find you on social media or anything else that you’d like to share please,
thank you Randy I appreciate our conversation today really do so I can be found at Benjamin Gilmer.com,
and on my website there are links to the book there are links to advocacy posts and and there will be more links in terms of,
learning more about the mass incarceration of the mentally ill so that’s the easiest place to find me you can Google our podcast at dr. Gilmer and mr. Hyde.
[52:25] And the book can be found at all major bookstores.
[52:29] Including Amazon but I love to encourage people to support their local independent bookstores those are the ones that are.
Are still supporting our communities in creative ways and even the smallest place in America usually has a little bookstore so I would encourage you to support them.
I couldn’t be any more enthusiastic with my agreement with that last Point Let’s do simple with the independent booksellers dr. Benjamin Gilmer once again thank you so much for being with us on prescriptions for success,
thank you Randy thank you so much for joining us today you can really help us with a five star rating
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Be sure to fill your prescription for success with my next episode.