March 16, 2011
Doctor awarded for lifetime of dedication
Cortland County Health Department medical advisor Dr. Stuart Gillim became interested in medicine early in life by reading medical detective short stories.
Now in retirement, his interest has spanned a more than 30-year career and continues to this day in his role advising the county.
As the Health Department’s medical advisor, Gillim guides the department on any local health issues that arise.
The Cortland County Board of Health on Tuesday awarded Gillim the John B. Bennett Public Health Award, which recognizes outstanding service.
Cortland County Health Director Catherine Feuerherm said the department relies on Gillim in various ways: providing teaching sessions for clinicians, as a resource on communicable diseases, and for his unique perspective.
“He always brings a very objective perspective to everything. Even if it appears an answer is so obvious, he has a different take and makes you think, which is why he is such a wonderful asset to the staff,” Feuerherm said.
Gillim is the 15th recipient of the award, which was first given in 1979 to past health department medical advisor Dr. Robert Corey.
Gillim, a private practice physician in Cortland County for 34 years, served on the county Board of Health from 1998 to 2010 and was board president for the last 10 years.
Gillim was the county coroner’s physician for over 20 years until resigning in the fall of 2010. Gillim determined whether an autopsy was warranted in cases where cause of death was questionable.
Coroners are not physicians and cannot perform autopsies.
Gillim now advises the Health Department on how to respond to disease outbreaks such as the H1N1 outbreak in the county in 2009.
Gillim also stays on top of the latest medical memos and all reported infectious diseases.
For example, if someone is diagnosed with a communicable disease such as chlamidyia, syphilis, or tuberculosis, the clinical laboratory reports the findings to the Health Department in that patient’s county of residence. The Health Department must then contact the patient and the patient’s physician.
Gillim makes recommendations on the best way to prevent the disease from spreading. In some cases immunization or quarantine are required.
Gillim recalled one instance of an outbreak of salmonella in the Northeast that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was trying to solve in the late 1970s. Gillim was the physician for the three Cortland County residents who had been infected.
Corey was the Health Department’s medical advisor at the time and officials identified the source of the contamination: roast beef being sold in delis.
“This led the CDC to solve the outbreak,” Gillim said, adding it was a “major coup” of the local health department.
Gillim said he was very honored to receive the award Tuesday.
Feuerherm said Gillim stays ahead on medical research and advises the department on what it needs to be prepared for.
Gillim said a more virulent strain of H1N1 is always something the county needs to be on the lookout for during flu season, which runs December to April. So far in North America there have not been any more deadly strains of the disease, he said, but more virulent strains have been reported in the British Isles and Europe.
Gillim recently moved to Canandaigua and commutes to the county about once a week. He also regularly advises the staff over the phone.
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