What was my biggest obstacle?
My biggest obstacle in achieving that goal occurred a few weeks before I completed my third year in medical school. I had the tragic, but not uncommon, experience of medical students of this time: contracting pulmonary tuberculosis. My illness predated chemotherapy and, for a twenty-one year old female with a previously negative tuberculin skin test, this was a serious illness with a poor prognosis. To make matters worse, six weeks before, I had married a surgical resident with a beautiful wedding in the presence of family and friends, including medical college faculty. This was the first time I had encountered any obstacle in my life and, I must admit, I had great difficulty in coping with it. My long road to recovery and returning to medical school after almost four years is a dramatic story of how great adversity can be a positive experience. The support and love of my husband, family and friends and my resolve that I would eventually, with God's help, achieve my goal all contributed to my success. I am confident that this experience made me a better physician and person.
How do I make a difference?
It is difficult for me to judge how I have most made a difference, if indeed I have made a difference. This is for others to judge and, undoubtedly, different groups would have different opinions. I like to think that I have had a positive influence on medical students and in medical education in general, providing the best possible faculty and facilities and an institution that prepares them for practice, research or academic careers depending upon their choice. I hope I have been an inspiration for them to pursue their dreams, achieve excellence, and treat all people with compassion and understanding.
Who was my mentor?
Dr. William F. Hamilton, Chairman of the Department of Physiology at the Medical College of Georgia and a world-renowned scientist, was probably my most influential mentor. He was responsible for my appointment to the faculty and was helpful in all aspects of my academic career, especially research. He made it possible for me to attend national meetings, where he introduced me to leading researchers in the cardiovascular and pulmonary fields. He encouraged me to present papers at these meetings and he was always there to lend whatever support was needed. He was largely responsible for my obtaining a National Institutes of Health Research Career Award. He provided financial and personal support in establishing a cardiopulmonary laboratory at a time when cardiac catheterizations were carried out using the Hamilton membrane manometer for pressure measurements. This was the forerunner of the modern cardiac catheterization laboratory and contributed significantly to the advent of open-heart surgery.
I must also mention my husband, Dr. Robert G. Ellison, Chief of Thoracic and Cardiac Surgery at MCG for 32 years and a leader in this specialty. We were partners in research and patient care and he has been my advisor during my entire career.
How has my career evolved over time?
All of my professional career has been at the Medical College of Georgia and may be divided into four periods with a great deal of overlap and continuity throughout.
Period I: Traditional academic career from 1951 to 1974. This included teaching, research and patient care.
Period II: Academic Administration from 1974 to 1984. Following one year as Associate Dean in the School of Medicine I was appointed Provost, the chief academic officer of the medical college reporting to the President. The deans of the five schools (Allied Health Science, Dentistry, Graduate Studies, Medicine and Nursing) reported to the provost who also had the administrative responsibility for five major Divisions. In 1983 the President retired and the Provost was one of three final candidates for the Presidency. An outside candidate was chosen. However, in 1984 the new president abolished the office of provost dividing the duties into the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Vice President for Research and Vice President for Clinical Activities.
Period III: Hospital Administration from 1984 to 2000. I was appointed Associate Vice-President for Planning for the Hospitals and Clinics in 1984 and, in this position, chaired the development of the master plan for the Hospitals and Clinics. This resulted in the construction of an Ambulatory Care Center, Specialized Care Center (emergency room, trauma center, intensive care units and support units), a free standing Children's Medical Center and a renovation program for the existing hospital. In addition, I participated in the many aspects of hospital administration, such as the Hospital Executive Committee, clinical program planning and communication with outside organizations.
Period IV: Medical Historian in Residence from 2000 to Present. April 2000 I retired and was named Provost Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Surgery and Graduate Studies. At this time, I was also appointed Medical Historian in Residence for the School of Medicine and am presently serving in this capacity. This involves writing and speaking on medical history with emphasis on the 175th anniversary in 2003.
The above briefly describes the official positions at the medical college during more than fifty years of service. Review of my curriculum vitae will indicate during all of this time I have participated in professional and health organizations, research programs, School of Medicine Alumni Association, community affairs, and church activities to mention a few. Throughout my professional life, I have been blessed with a wonderful family life. My husband, MCG Charbonnier Professor Robert G. Ellison, and I have five sons and nine grandchildren. Three of our sons are physicians, one an attorney and one a businessman.