In the letters he wrote to London, Gilmer seems to refer to himself not as a doctor or surgeon, but as an apothecary, and his name in public documents as well as in private records most often appears not as Dr. Gilmer but as Mr. Gilmer. He was doubtless prouder of being known as a gentleman and a colonel; the title of doctor was often held in poor esteem. William Byrd II wrote in 1706 that “here be some men indeed that are call’d Doctors: but they are generally discarded Surgeons of Ships, that know nothing above the very common Remedys.” As late as 1783 Dr. Johann Schoepf, writing of his travels through the former colonies, asserted that “in America every man who drives the curing trade is known without distinction as Doctor, as elsewhere every person who makes verses is a poet— 밤알바 so there are both black doctors and brown, and quacks in abundance.”

Apprenticeship was the usual form of training for all 15 colonial occupations, with the possible exception of the ministry at one end of the scale and ordinary farming at the other. Medicine was not an exception; practitioners normally took apprentices for the same reasons that cabinetmakers or blacksmiths did. The beginning apprentice performed the unskilled and some of the semiskilled duties of the establishment, learning as he did so. As he acquired knowledge, he could give the doctor more and more assistance in his practice.

The doctor generally undertook, if there was a formal indenture, to teach the apprentice the “art and mystery of physic, surgery, and pharmacy,” or words to that effect. Sometimes, however, he agreed to teach only the art of the apothecary. In either event, the apprentice was taught to compound medicines as directed by his master, to search the woods for medicinal plants, and probably to keep books and collect fees. Even an apprentice apothecary might in time be called on to assist—or perhaps even take over—such routine treatments as bleeding. Most likely he also had to spend his evenings reading whatever medical or pharmaceutical works the doctor had on hand—from Hippocrates to the latest edition of the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia.

On completing this apprenticeship—which in most cases probably fell short of the English norm of seven years—the young man could set up in the “curing trade”, for himself, with no more credentials than his master’s certificate to the effect that he had served a certain term and had studied certain books. Or he could go to Edinburgh or London for further study at a university or in a hospital.