J Lawton Smith Award Recipient

J Lawton Smith was one of the original founders of the COS.  He was globally well known as a neuroophthalmologist who was charismatic in practice and his faith!

The J Lawton Smith Award is given out each year at the COS Annual Meeting to an ophthalmologist who has shown a lifetime commmitment to serving the Lord through their personal practice of excellence in medicine, academic influence, and/or missionary dedication.

Author, Ironman or Cataract Surgeon?




Award Year:

Until we understand that it is in our hopelessness that we find God, and in our weakness that we draw near to Him, and until we refuse to trust ouselves, we will remain spiritually blind.

from “Overcoming Spiritual Blindness” by James Gills 2005

Jim Gills has been a legend to me since I had only heard about this famous cataract surgeon well before I had met him. He sounded a bit controversial given that he was among one of the first higher volume phaco surgeons before we all learned to do phaco quickly.

I finally had the chance to meet Dr. Gills at a COS meeting in about 2003. He was at the jobs placement meeting at the COS and agreed with the rest of those there that a better network was needed for helping Christian practices find like minded doctors to practice.

It wasn’t until 2008 that I had the real opportunity to visit his Tarpon Springs office and spend some time watching him do surgery and see patients. Dr. Gills was absolutely amazing in so many aspects of this meeting and I am still in awe of his accomplishments as a surgeon and human being. First of all, it was quite obvious that Dr. Gills was very introspective and thought deeply about things. He was said to have a photographic memory and I experienced that as he quoted literature from years before. This particular day he was thinking strongly about a talk he was to give to many ophthalmologists at the Hawaiian Eye Meeting in a few weeks. He wanted me to watch a video that showed in graphic detail how DNA was made and amazingly enough how it’s intricant design pointed to a creator. He was quite excited as he was planning to present this amazing evidence to a highly secular crowd and how our actual DNA points to a creator!!

In surgery, Dr. Gills was just as one would expect. He was amazingly calm and talked me through the cases as he did them. He seemed to be running 2 to 3 rooms but he was so smooth that it certainly didn’t seem like anyone was in a rush. I understood that in his prime, he would jog on a treadmill between cases while working on his latest book chapter. In fact, for those of you who don’t know, Dr. Gills has authored over 20 books mostly on spirituality. He was good friends with Chuck Colson and it was said due to this friendship that he was the most read author in the American prison system. His books obviously touched his patient’s lives since as I watched him see patients, they might ask him to autograph their book. I believe that he actually gave his books away in the office to those who wanted them.

Dr. Gills was an amazing clinician and he talked with each patient in a gentle voice and immediately put them at ease. He would incorporate doing arcuate incisions right in the office visit if necessary to help each patient achieve the best vision after cataract surgery.

Dr. Gills had developed such an amazing reputation with cataract surgery, he had gained very famous patients from all around the world. I was able to walk his hall they referred to as the “Hall of Fame” where pictured were some of his well known patients such as Billy Graham and Ruth Graham, George and Barbara Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher, Harry Carey, Rudy Giuliana and many many more.

Dr. Gills had an amazing knack for business and he had become a very successful businessman and real estate developer in the Tarpon Springs and Tampa/Orlando area. He actually won the Florida businessman of the year one year. Dr. Gills was also an amazing athelete and had been an ironman competing in multiple ironmans himself. In fact, because of his success in business, he had been able to purchase the ironman franchise and it was run on the second floor of his office. Dr. Gills was extremely quite about his successes and it was said that from the profits of the Ironman, that he had built over 8000 churches around the developing world.

Consider reading one of Dr. Gills books on Amazon such as “Overcoming Spiritual Blindness,” or “The Prayerful Spirit” or “Rx for Worry” or “God’s Prescription for Healing”

Check these out on Amazon

JLS Award Recipients

Other amazing ophthalmologists to know . . .