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July 2002

George S. Ellis, Sr, MD (1923-2001)

Arch Ophthalmol. 2002;120(7):1007-1008. doi:10.1001/archopht.120.7.1007

Dr George S. Ellis, Sr, died peacefully in his New Orleans home at the age of 78 on September 12, 2001. His death brought to a close a long and distinguished career in ophthalmology in New Orleans. Dr Ellis served the community and the state of Louisiana for more than 40 years as an ophthalmologist in private practice with academic appointments at Tulane University School of Medicine and the Louisiana State University School of Medicine. He developed a special interest in pediatric ophthalmology, cared for tens of thousands of patients throughout the South, and was involved in the education of more than 1000 medical students and 100 ophthalmology residents. He held key positions in community, state, and national ophthalmology and medical organizations.

George S. Ellis, Sr, MD

George S. Ellis, Sr, MD

George Ellis was born in Almonsif, Lebanon, on May 30, 1923, 3 months before his parents immigrated to the United States. He was raised in Port Gibson, Miss, and Marshall, Tex. He graduated from Marshall High School, completed his undergraduate education at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honorary fraternity, and received his medical degree from the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans in 1946. After interning at Charity Hospital of New Orleans, Dr Ellis served in the Navy Medical Corps, completing 2 years of residency in dermatology and serving in the occupational forces in the Mediterranean following World War II. On his return from the service, he practiced general medicine in Marshall, Tex, before he returned to Charity Hospital to complete a residency in ophthalmology. Subsequently, he pursued a fellowship in disorders of the eye muscles at Louisiana State University and then at the University of Iowa under the tutelage of Hermann M. Burian, MD.

From 1949 to 1950, Dr Ellis served in general practice in Marshall, Tex, and in 1986, he was recognized by the city of Marshall with the inscription of his name on their Distinguished Citizens Wall.

From 1951 until 1972, he served as associate supervising ophthalmologist for the Department of Public Welfare of the state of Louisiana. He joined the staff of the Department of Ophthalmology at Louisiana State University as a clinical professor in 1952, a position he held until 1978, and in 1953, Dr Ellis went into a 40-year partnership in private practice with his brother-in-law and former chairman, George M. Haik, Sr, at the George M. Haik Eye Clinic. In 1978, Dr Ellis assumed a clinical professorship of ophthalmology at the Tulane University Medical Center, which he held for 15 years. His career in New Orleans included staff appointments at the Hotel Dieu Hospital, where he was president of the medical staff in 1976 and 1977, Mercy-Baptist Hospital, the Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Hospital, East Jefferson General Hospital, Children's Hospital, and DePaul Hospital.

Dr Ellis taught aspects of pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus to innumerable residents from the New Orleans training programs and to ophthalmologists at meetings of the American College of Ophthalmology. He was an outstanding educator who could simplify the most complex topics for his students. His compassion and willingness to listen intently and then provide clear and concise advice made him an excellent confidant for those he mentored. He treated his students and residents as colleagues, serving as an unwavering source of ophthalmic knowledge.

Authoring numerous articles during his career, Dr Ellis's thesis for the American Ophthalmological Society, Akinesia of the Facial Nerve: Laboratory Investigation of the Surgical Anatomy (Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 1968;66:746-787), was a significant contribution to our understanding of seventh-nerve anesthesia and has stood the test of time.

In 1985, George Ellis became the first ophthalmologist to be installed as president of the Orleans Parish Medical Society, which, in 1987, presented him with its Outstanding Physician Award. He also served as president of the New Orleans Academy of Ophthalmology and of the Southern Eye Bank. The Academy dedicated its 51st annual symposium to Dr Ellis. The establishment of the Dr George S. Ellis, Sr, Distinguished Service Award, an annual award honoring outstanding service to the eye bank system, is a fitting tribute to his many contributions to the Southern Eye Bank, where he served on the board of directors for 40 years.

Dr Ellis was active in the Southern Medical Association and served in most major offices of that organization, including that of general chairman of the annual scientific meeting in 1988. He was on the board of governors of the Orleans Parish Medical Society and held most of the other major positions in that organization as well. He was vice president of the Eye Foundation of America from 1961 until his death. He was on the legislative committee of the Louisiana State Medical Society from 1986 until 1999.

Active in community service, George Ellis was on the Mayor's Medical Advisory Committee for the city of New Orleans from 1987 until his death, and he actively volunteered his time and expertise to numerous educational and clinical care institutions throughout Louisiana. He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce of New Orleans, the International House, and the Rotary Club.

George Ellis was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and brother. He was preceded in death in 1997 by his wife of 46 years, Lorraine Haik Ellis, and is survived by 2 sons—Robert G. Ellis, MD, a psychiatrist on the faculty at the Tulane University Medical Center and co-director of psychiatry at Charity Hospital of New Orleans, and George S. Ellis, Jr, MD, who is director of ophthalmology at the Childrens' Hospital in New Orleans—a daughter, Joan Ellis Green, 7 grandchildren, a brother, Michael Ellis, MD, and a sister, Georgette Ellis.

George Ellis, Sr, along with his partner and brother-in-law, George Haik, Sr, was a role model for their family. Together, they influenced more than 40 relatives to become physicians, more than half of whom became ophthalmologists. Imitation, indeed, is the greatest form of flattery.

George Ellis was a truly remarkable human being who will be remembered for his unfailing cheerfulness, humor, positive outlook, intelligence, high ethical standards, and sense of duty to his family, friends, patients, and colleagues as well as for his compassionate and gentle demeanor.