Dr. Lois Taylor Ellison, a clinician, researcher, educator and administrator whose 75-plus-year affiliation with the Medical College of Georgia left a lasting legacy on the institution and on health care in general, died on Saturday, April 20, 2019 at the age of 95.
Dr. Ellison, a native of Fort Valley, Georgia, was the daughter of Robert James Taylor and Annie Maude Anderson Taylor. She was the editor of her high school paper, captain of the basketball and tennis teams and winner of the Georgia State High School Singles Tennis Championship before graduating as an honor graduate and commencement speaker at Athens High School in Athens, Georgia.
She continued her education at the University of Georgia, earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry and zoology in less than three years rather than the standard four. At UGA she participated in many extracurricular activities. She was president of the Z Club and Mortar Board, secretary of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, staff member and columnist of the Red and Black weekly student newspaper and was named to Who's Who in American Universities and Colleges.
In 1943 she enrolled in the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine, one of four females in a class of 78 students. Her medical education was interrupted by a battle with tuberculosis but she persevered and graduated in 1950.
In 1945 she married Dr. Robert G. Ellison, who later became Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at MCG, serving in this capacity for 32 years. After completing a cardiopulmonary physiology fellowship, she was appointed to the faculty where she helped develop MCG's cardiopulmonary laboratory, serving as director until 1992.
Her research was furthered by being named a research fellow and established investigator of the Georgia Heart Association and by a Research Career Award from the National Heart Institute of the National Institutes of Health from 1963-68. She published 73 articles in scientific journals and made numerous presentations at meetings primarily related to preoperative and postoperative studies, open-heart surgery, alveolar surfactant and cardiovascular and pulmonary physiology.
The Ellisons continued their medical advancements while raising five sons, three of whom are now physicians. In the 1970s, Dr. Ellison's career began to shift into administration. In 1974, she was named associate dean for curriculum in the School of Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia. A year later, she was named provost, second in line to then-President William Moretz making her the highest-ranking female in U.S. medical schools.
As MCG's physical plant grew, her next role was to oversee the expansion of clinical facilities as associate vice president for planning (hospitals and clinics.) Campus additions during her tenure included the Ambulatory Care Center/Specialized Care Center and the Children's Hospital of Georgia.
Dr. Ellison retired as Professor Emeritus and Provost Emeritus in 2000, but stayed on as MCG's Medical Historian in Residence. She meticulously gathered and chronicled materials about the university's heritage, including writing the publication "Moments in History" in observance of MCG's 175th anniversary.
"Dr. Lois Ellison was the matriarch of the Medical College of Georgia. She was a pioneer as a woman in medicine and science, and was first in the heart of her medical school," said Dr. David Hess, MCG Dean.
Her influence extended far beyond the confines of campus. She was a past president of the Georgia Thoracic Society, the American Lung Association of Georgia and the Georgia affiliate of the American Heart Association. She served as president of the American Lung Association and in 1998 was awarded its highest honor, the Will Ross Medal. She was a charter member of the Board of Directors of the MCG Research Institute and served as vice president and treasurer. Dr. Ellison was a member of the Board of Directors of the MCG School of Medicine Alumni Association, serving as its first female president in 1988-89.
Dr. Ellison was a member of the Board of Directors of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities, the Widow's Home, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Augusta, Junior Achievement of Augusta and the YMCA of Augusta. Among the honors she received were the MCG School of Medicine Distinguished Alumnus Award, the MCG School of Medicine Lifetime Achievement Award, and together with her husband, the Vessel of Life Award, MCG's highest award. She was recognized by the Board of Regents as the outstanding alumna of the University System of Georgia in 2009 and by the people of Georgia by resolution of the Georgia State Senate in 2016 for her lifetime achievement in Medicine.
She was included in the 2003 National Institutes of Health National Library of Medicine exhibition, "Changing the Face of Medicine - Celebrating America's Women Physicians." Dr. Ellison was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, Omicron Kappa Upsilon Dental Honor Society and Sigma Xi.
She was a member of Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church, the Damren Sunday School Class and the church's Administrative Board, Board of Trustees and Pastor Parish Committee.
Dr. Ellison is predeceased by her husband of 60 years, Dr. Robert G. Ellison, and her sister, Laura Taylor Nowak. She is survived by five sons, nine grandchildren and two great- grandchildren: Dr. Robert G. Ellison, Jr. and wife Penny, of Jacksonville, Florida and their children, Lauren Grillon (Nick) and Bobby Ellison; Dr. Gregory T. Ellison and wife Marty, of Augusta, and their children, Dr. Taylor Ellison, Leigh Ellison and Sarah Ellison; Dr. Mark F. Ellison and wife Betsy, of Athens and their children Mark Ellison, Jr. (Jennifer Varela) and David Ellison (Lauren) and their children, Abby and Jack Ellison; James W. Ellison, of Augusta; and John C. Ellison and wife Jackie, of Suwanee, and their children Johnny Ellison and Jerry Ellison.
Visitation will be held Tuesday, April 23, 2019 from 6-8pm at Elliott Sons Funeral Home, 4255 Columbia Road, Martinez, GA.
A service of celebration and remembrance will be held Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at 11am at Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church with the Reverend Greg Hatfield officiating.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Lois Taylor Ellison Scholarship, Medical College of Georgia, Medical College of Georgia Foundation, 720 St. Sebastian Way, Suite 150, Augusta GA 30901 or to Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church, 1330 Monte Sano Avenue, Augusta GA 30904.
Published in Athens Banner-Herald from Apr. 22 to Apr. 24, 2019.