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Dr. Lois Taylor Ellison





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1923


Medical School

Medical College of Georgia


Geography

LOCATION
Georgia


Career Path

Internal medicine: Cardiology
Dr. Lois Taylor Ellison



Milestones

YEAR
1979
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Ellison was the first woman to be made an at-large member of Oak Ridge Associated Universities, a 15-member board of nationally recognized scientists.
YEAR
1989
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Ellison was the first woman to be elected president of the School of Medicine Alumni Association of the Medical College of Georgia.
YEAR
1973
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Lois Ellison was the first woman president of Georgia Thoracic Society.
YEAR
1956
ACHIEVEMENT
With her husband Dr. R. G. Ellison, Dr. Lois Ellison established Medical College of Georgia’s Cardiopulmonary Laboratory, and became its first director.


Inspiration

As long as I can remember I wanted to become a physician. My mother enjoyed telling the story that when asked as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, instead of the usual answers (actress, singer, teacher, nurse, etc.), I would emphatically declare, "A doctor!" She dated this from preschool age and I never changed my answer. In retrospect, this probably resulted from my experiences in my grandfather's drug store located on "main street" in the center of a small Georgia town. The second floor of the building was occupied by the offices of the three local physicians. My grandfather was the pharmacist and a true member of the medical team. Everyone called him "Doc" and many times his advice was sought before a doctor's visit was considered necessary. He always gave helpful advice. The rear of the pharmacy was somewhat of an emergency room where initial therapy was administered to patients because the closest hospital was about 30 miles away.

In addition, the drug store also served as a meeting place for the men of the community who would drop in for coffee and conversation about mid-morning and longer on rainy days when farmers would join the group. Topics would include business, politics, churches, jokes, and general gossip.

My grandfather would let me sit on a tall stool by his side while he filled prescriptions, responded to customers, talked with doctors, etc. From this position I could also listen with great interest to the conversation of the group gathered around the drug store tables although I am certain my grandfather never realized this. This environment offered a great learning experience in many ways.

At times I would spend the night at my grandparents' home. The telephone, located in the hall, often rang during the night hours. I would hear my grandfather say, "I will meet you at the store right away." There was never a hesitation or question about payment. As I would go back to sleep I would think how wonderful it was to be of such service to people.

Yes, I knew I had to be a doctor and I never considered another course for my life. Unfortunately, my grandfather died from a stroke when in his sixties while I was a freshman in college and, although I had told him I was a premed student, I am not sure that he ever thought that I (a girl) would really become a physician. However, I know he would have been proud of me.



Biography

With her husband Dr. Robert G. Ellison, Dr. Lois Taylor Ellison established the Medical College of Georgia's first Cardiopulmonary Laboratory in 1956, and became its first director. She has devoted a half-century of service to medical education at the Medical College of Georgia, her alma mater. She is also the mother of five sons, three of whom are physicians.

Lois Taylor was born in 1923 in Fort Valley, Georgia, and attended Athens High School in Athens, Georgia, and earned her bachelor of science degree in Chemistry and zoology at the University of Georgia in 1943. She enrolled in pre-medicine at the Medical college of George in 1943, but was forced to take a leave of absence in 1945 when succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis. The disease forced her to take a leave of absence from her third-year studies at the Medical College of Georgia from 1945 to 1949. But upon her recovery and return to coursework, she earned her doctor of medicine degree in 1950. Dr. Ellison then went on to complete four years of postdoctoral training in cardiopulmonary physiology from 1951 to 1954. She has since devoted herself to preoperative and postoperative studies, open heart surgery, alveolar surfactants, and cardiovascular pulmonary physiology in a variety of clinical and experimental conditions—all at the Medical College of Georgia.

Through more than fifty years as a faculty member and researcher at the Medical College of Georgia, Dr. Ellison has continued her research alongside her husband, Dr. R. G. Ellison. Together they established MCG's Cardiopulmonary Laboratory in 1956, and she became its first director. It was at the Cardiopulmonary Lab that the university's first heart catheterizations and blood gases were performed. She was the first woman to serve as president of the Georgia Thoracic Society, the first woman to serve as president of the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine Alumni Association, first woman president of the Faculty Senate of the School of Medicine at MCG, and the first woman to serve as an at-large member of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities, a 15-member board of nationally recognized scientists.

Besides serving in leadership positions on numerous boards and committees, on both the professional and community level, she received MCG's Woman of Excellence Award in Health in 1993 and MCG School of Medicine's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, as well as the American Lung Association's Will Ross Medal and the Georgia Lung Association's Board Member of the Year award, both in 1998.

Now provost emeritus and professor emeritus of Medicine, Surgery and Graduate Studies, as well as associate professor emeritus of Physiology, Dr. Ellison bears the title Medical Historian in Residence at the Medical College of Georgia. After more than a half-century in medicine, Dr. Ellison has clear advice to other women who wish to follow in her footsteps: "Women should set their goals and develop their ambitions based on what they want to achieve, never underestimating their ability to succeed at the highest level. They must believe in themselves and be steadfast in the pursuit of excellence in all phases of life."



Question and Answer

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.



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