John E. Gillis and John M. Gillis came into this world with their father's name. Now all grown up, they're following in his footsteps as dentists in Arizona.
The reason for the same name is simple, no more kids were expected for the couple and it would be unfair to name only one of the identical twins after their father. To make things equal, their parents decided to give them both the name John and make their middle names something different. As they grew older, John Edwards decided to go by Ed and John Malcom, Mac.
"We get confused all the time," said Ed. "I walked up to his house a few months ago and a neighbor from two doors down comes over and starts talking to me about the sprinkler, just routine neighborhood stuff. I basically just said, ‘Sir, I don't know you. I'm his twin brother and I have no idea what you're talking about' and he just freaked out. That's my life. That's our life."
Life, overall, has been good for the twins. The two grew up in Tempe, when most of Ahwatukee was still desert, and said it was fun being an identical twin.
"It was fun, except for getting the same gift every Christmas, but a different color," Ed said. "We'd have to turn our heads when we got the gifts because he'd get the same shirt."
The two were competitive in sports at Marcos de Niza High School and that friendly competition has carried on as they both went through dental school and began practicing in Arizona.
"We were raised here," Ed said. "We love Arizona. When I was in the Air Force I was gone and he was in residency, we just wanted to come home and start practice here."
Eventually Mac went in to oral surgery in Phoenix and Tempe and Ed stuck with general dentistry in Ahwatukee. Though the two don't recommend their patients to one another every time, they do enjoy working on some cases together.
They admit they've always been close, which just makes knowing them even more confusing. They just smile when asked if they ever pulled pranks.
"We switched a few classes here and there," Mac said. "I picked up his college girlfriend on Valentine's Day once just to see how long it took for her to figure it out. I said, ‘Hey honey, happy Valentine's Day,' and she said ‘Honey? You always call me Sweetie.' I told her it was Valentine's Day and I was trying something different. She didn't realize we'd switched until we told her."
Nowadays the men say they still like to pull pranks on family, but can never get away with pulling pranks on their wives.
"They know every single time," Mac said. "My wife's a fraternal twin too so she's very understanding of how our relationship is."
Both men enjoy fishing, golfing, running and their jobs. Dentistry seems to be something that runs in the family.
"It's nice having my dad and uncle through dental school," Mac said. "If you have a tough case it's nice to be able to ask someone you know and trust who's a colleague."
Ed added: "My dad was a prosthodontist, which is different from what I do, but to this day with tough cases I'll call him up and get some advice from him. Even though he's old school, a lot of stuff hasn't changed."
So if you happen to run into your family dentist or the man who took out your daughter's wisdom teeth, Dr. John Gillis, around Ahwatukee, make sure you know who you're talking to.
"I'll turn around when I hear someone call my name in the grocery store and realize it's not my patient but I just say, ‘Oh hi, it's nice to see you' because there's no time to explain," Mac said.
Allison Hurtado is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a junior at Arizona State University.