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Dr. F. Henry Ellis, Jr.

Frank Henry Ellis Jr., MD, PhD, 91, Passes Away

September 26, 2011--Emeritus Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School Frank ("Bunky") Henry Ellis Jr., MD, PhD, who served as Chief of the Division of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at New England Deaconess Hospital from 1971-1989, passed away on September 26 at age 91.

Dr. Ellis completed undergraduate studies at Yale University and received his MD from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1944. After an internship at Bellevue Hospital and serving as a lieutenant in the Navy at the end of World War II, he completed residencies in general and thoracic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. During his training, Dr. Ellis earned a PhD in surgery from the University of Minnesota.

He joined the staff at the Mayo Clinic in 1953. With Drs. John Kirklin, Dwight McGoon, and Sir Brian Barratt-Boyes, Dr. Ellis was one of the pioneers of the then-nascent field of cardiac surgery. Throughout this period, he published a wealth of scholarly publications in peer-reviewed journals that covered the entire gamut of cardiac and thoracic surgery. In 1966, Dr. Ellis was appointed Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Mayo Clinic, a position he held until 1970.

In 1970, Dr. Ellis became the Chair of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at the Lahey Clinic. In 1971, he was appointed Chief of the Division of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at New England Deaconess Hospital, a position he held for 18 years. At Harvard Medical School, Dr. Ellis rose through the ranks and was appointed Clinical Professor of Surgery in 1980.

Dr. Ellis was past president of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the Society for Vascular Surgery. He served for three terms as Governor of the American College of Surgeons, was chair of the Residency Review Committee for Thoracic Surgery, and was a director of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery from 1970-1976.

An international surgical leader in diseases of the esophagus and esophageal surgery, Dr. Ellis published seminal work in both basic science and clinical research for benign and malignant conditions of the esophagus, including reflux esophagitis, achalasia, and esophageal cancer. Several operative techniques in esophageal surgery bear his name and are still in use today, including his pioneering descriptions of esophageal resection. His superb operative skills and ability to instruct trainees in complex reoperative surgery were widely known.

Dr. Ellis's wide-ranging career also included service during the Vietnam War: In 1968, with the AMA's Volunteer Physicians for Vietnam, he provided surgical care to civilians in Nha Trang both during and after the Tet Offensive.

Dr. Ellis was on the editorial board of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, published three books, and authored more than 550 scholarly works. The F. Henry Ellis Lectureship in Thoracic Surgery held each year in the Department of Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center honors Dr. Ellis's many contributions to the department, BIDMC, Harvard Medical School, and the surgical profession.

"Throughout the years, I had the opportunity to enjoy his wisdom and profit from his advice," said Sidney Levitsky, MD, Senior Vice Chairman of the BIDMC Department of Surgery and Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, who succeeded Dr. Ellis as Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at New England Deaconess Hospital in 1989. "I still miss his humor, advice, and absolute integrity."

Dr. Ellis leaves his second wife, Mary Jane (Walsh) Ellis; eight children; 14 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A memorial service for Dr. Ellis was held in Dedham, Mass., on October 7.