Scholarship Program Home > Scholarships > M.D.

Maren B. and Bruce C. Gilliland, M.D. and Paul G. Ramsey, M.D. Endowed Scholarship

Upload Your Letter

Please address your letter to:
Ms. Gilliland

Bruce C. Gilliland, M.D., Res. ’63 had a medical career at UW Medicine that spanned 45 years: as an intern, resident, fellow, physician, administrator, and professor.

Born in Lima, Peru in 1931, where his father served as a missionary physician, Dr. Gilliland was the oldest of five brothers. He graduated from Occidental College in California, and received his M.D. from the Northwestern University Medical School in 1960. After his internship and residency in internal medicine at the University of Washington, Dr. Gilliland began a fellowship in rheumatology — an interest spurred by his residency with Dr. John Decker. He then transferred to the University of Rochester to complete his fellowship and to gain additional training in clinical immunology with Dr. John Vaughan.

In 1968, Dr. Gilliland was recruited to the UW as an assistant professor of medicine and the first head of the Section of Rheumatology at the Veterans Affairs Hospital. Subsequently, Dr. Paul Strandjord, the first chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine, asked Dr. Gilliland to run the department’s clinical immunology division.

These undertakings were the beginning of a long, distinguished career at the UW School of Medicine and affiliated institutions. Dr. Gilliland — named a professor in medicine and in laboratory medicine in 1977 — served as the director of the UW’s internal medicine residency program, medical director and later director of medical education at Providence Medical Center, chief of the Department of Medicine at Pacific Medical Center, associate dean of clinical affairs at the School of Medicine, acting dean of the School of Medicine, dean’s liaison to the alumni office, acting director for Continuing Medical Education at the School, and acting head of the Division of Rheumatology. He also served in various leadership positions at the King County Medical Society and at the Washington State Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, among other positions. Dr. Gilliland also served on several editorial boards, making original contributions to medicine and publishing textbook chapters, most notably to 10 sequential editions (1974-2005) of the premier textbook, Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. He was elected a master to both the American College of Rheumatology and the American College of Physicians.

In recognition of his exemplary work, Dr. Gilliland received the UW Medicine Alumni Association’s Lifetime of Service Award in 2003. Involved in teaching medical students, residents, and post-doctoral fellows, Dr. Gilliland also received numerous awards for his excellence in teaching. He loved bedside and clinic teaching: the art of taking a patient’s history, the skills of physical examination, the intellectual rigor in reaching an appropriate diagnosis. As one of Dr. Gilliland’s trainees wrote, “He always amazed with his clinical acumen, his ability to walk into a patient’s room and — at times — just inspecting their nails, he could rattle off a list of differential diagnoses.” In another tribute, written a number of years ago, a rheumatologist described the impression that Dr. Gilliland had made on him. “Bruce was the major inspiration in my becoming a rheumatologist,” he wrote. “I have always considered him my personal role model. I just wish I had his big hands, to lay on the patient, and provide as much comfort in that simple act as he always did.”

Dr. Gilliland, who died after a long battle with cancer on February 17, 2007, will long be remembered for his dedication to the School of Medicine and for his dedication as a mentor and as a physician. He is survived by his wife, Maren, his daughters Jean and Anne Marie and their families, his son, John, several grandchildren, and his brothers Keith, Vincent, and Victor.

In the spring 2003 edition of the School’s alumni magazine, Dr. Gilliland — who at one time considered coaching basketball as a career — talks about mentoring. “A good coach can be demanding at times,” he said, “but he’s thinking about what’s best for you.” It’s a motto that Dr. Gilliland applied, with great success, to his career in academic medicine.