Dear Medical College of Georgia Friends,
Dr. Lois Taylor Ellison passes
There was never, ever anything commonplace about Dr. Lois Taylor Ellison. Before she even started any school, she knew she wanted to go to medical school. She said it was likely because of the time she spent during those early, formative years at her grandfather’s drugstore in Fort Valley, Georgia. She would sit beside him on a stool while he filled prescriptions and talked with customers as well as the physicians whose offices were upstairs. She never heard her grandfather or the doctors, who were his colleagues and friends, refuse to help. She knew she wanted to help too.
Dr. Ellison started MCG in 1943, one of four female students in her class
When she started medical school at MCG in 1943, a bachelor’s degree was not required but she not only got one, she finished her studies in chemistry and zoology in three years at the University of Georgia. No small feat, and there would be many more. She was pretty much a pioneer the day she showed up at MCG and would remain a lifelong advocate for equal education opportunities for all. While our first female student Dr. Loree Florence came to us in 1921, women were still the minority in medical school when Dr. Ellison started as one of only four women in her class of 78 students. She developed pulmonary tuberculosis in 1945 – at age 21 and just six weeks married – was forced to take a medical leave and was out for four years. But Lois Taylor Ellison came back, graduated in 1950, then completed four years of training in cardiopulmonary physiology.
She helped establish MCG’s first cardiopulmonary lab
Like the man who would become her husband, Dr. Robert G. Ellison, a 1943 MCG graduate and longtime chief of cardiothoracic surgery, she stayed focused on the cardiovascular system. Together the Drs. Ellison established in 1956 our first cardiopulmonary lab, where our first cardiac catheterizations and blood gasses were performed, and she was its first director. She would study surfactants, and physiology and how to make surgery better. She earned a National Institutes of Health Research Career Award, would become the first female president of the Georgia Thoracic Society, and the first female president of our alumni association and our Faculty Senate.
She would become provost, associate VP for hospital planning, medical historian in residence
A natural leader, she would move into administrative roles in 1974, first becoming an associate dean at her medical school, and shortly provost for the health sciences university, then called MCG. Ten years later, she moved into hospital administration and served as associate vice president for planning, hospitals and clinics, and would oversee the development of a master plan that would enable construction of buildings we use daily, like the children’s hospital and our primary outpatient facility and critical care tower. In 2000, Dr. Ellison would “retire” becoming provost emeritus, professor emeritus and medical historian in residence. There she continued to help MCG find its future by sharing lessons of the past. A month before she died at the age of 95, she was on the phone for the Dean’s Staff meeting.
She was a mentor of physicians and the matriarch of MCG
Dr. Ellison’s family and friends were her favorite pastimes and she had so many of both, including five sons, three of whom are doctors and fellow MCG alums. She once said she hoped she had been a positive influence on medical students, “an inspiration for them to pursue their dreams, achieve excellence, and treat all people with compassion and understanding.” Rest easy, Dr. Ellison, the matriarch of MCG. You have done that and much more. Learn more about this amazing individual.
Dr. Brian H. Annex is the new chair of the Department of Medicine
As we look forward to the great future that stalwarts like Dr. Ellison have enabled, I am very pleased to announce that our future will include Dr. Brian Annex. Dr. Annex, a renowned physician scientist, collaborator and leader, who is now chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, is our new chair of the Department of Medicine. He joins us August 5. Dr. Annex was another one of those individuals who my gut told me was right for this big job, in which he will work with many of you to help propel our largest department further forward on many fronts, including the pursuit of science, something this National Institutes of Health-funded investigator knows plenty about. I know you join me in congratulating him. Please also join me in thanking Dr. Richard Schwartz, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, an excellent leader on all academic fronts as well, who put those skills to use to help us identify and recruit Dr. Annex. I must thank as well Sharon Wingard, executive search consultant, who was the front face of this leadership search (and so many others…). She has helped MCG more than perhaps she knows, but we know. Thank you.
The State of the University is good
I know a lot of you were at President Keel’s great State of the University address this week and I want to thank him here as well. He definitely has a big job too, putting the face and inner-workings of a still new university together. This week, he reminded those of us from the oldest part of our university, that he appreciates and supports MCG. We see plenty of that support recently in the significant additional dollars he is enabling for work like strategically expanding our class size to better meet Georgia’s physician needs. In his essential and personal support in recruiting individuals like Dr. Annex and our new cancer center director, Dr. Jorge Cortes. In hearing our passionate scientists’ concerns and promising them that we will become more of a research destination. In building on our strength as Georgia’s “dedicated health/sciences/medical college.” Thanks Dr. Keel.
Dr. Roy Witherington honored with The President’s Award
I am pleased to share as well that Dr. Roy Witherington, 1953 graduate, longtime chief of the Division of Urology, one of the first residents to train at our 63-year-old hospital, a world traveler and philanthropist, is the 2019 recipient of The President’s Award, the highest award given by the university. Dr. Witherington is one of the most serene surgeons I have ever met but he has done a ton in his life and for his medical school. He was an instinctive educator and physician in his 40-year career in urology. He is a lifetime member of our Alumni Association. He endowed a student scholarship fund that bears his name and another that is from his Class of 1953. His name is on one of the Learning Communities in the Harrison Commons. He established the Roy Witherington, MD, Chair in Urology held by our urology chief Dr. Martha Terris. He was honored this past weekend for his outstanding support of his alma mater, which is a great thing.
MCG faculty honored
Finally today, if you want to check out some more amazing award winners please check out the honorees at the Faculty Awards Ceremony last week. The overview of excellence this annual event provides always puts a smile on my face. It reminds me of the great people here and the great days to come. Congratulations all.
May 9 – Hooding ceremony, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium. The guest speaker is Dr. Leah Brown, orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and treatment of the knee, shoulder and elbow. She was an NCAA All American and two-time NCAA National Gymnastics Champion while a student at the University of Georgia. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University College of Medicine and served for two years as battalion surgeon at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in San Diego. She was a Medical Aid Station Director during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Orthopaedic Surgery Department Head during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and has received the Bronze Star, Navy Commendation Medal. Reception will follow at the Old Medical College.
May 10 – Graduation, 2 p.m., James Brown Arena.
May 10-11 – Paceline bike riding event to benefit the Georgia Cancer Center. You can choose various routes and ride 20, 45 or 100 miles and raise $750, $1,000 or $1,500, respectively, to help us fight cancer.
May 11 – Community Celebration for the Class of 2019, AU/UGA Medical Partnership campus, 10 a.m. UGA Center for Continuing Education, Mahler Hall. Reception follows.
May 24 – Faculty Senate, noon, Lee Auditorium.
May 30-June 1 – MCG Statewide Faculty Development Conference, Teaching Tomorrow’s Physicians Today: MCG’s Mission for Georgia, Jekyll Island Convention Center.
June 21 – Faculty Senate, noon, location TBD.
Oct. 19 – White Coat Ceremony, 2 p.m., Bell Auditorium.