Elmer G. Ellis, the former longtime president/CEO of East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System, died Sunday. He was 78.
A celebration of his life is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Green Acres Baptist Church Chapel in Tyler under the direction of Jackson’s Burks Walker Tippit Funeral Home.
A private family service will take place at Christ Episcopal Church, where Ellis worshiped. The Rev. M. L. Agnew Jr. is set to officiate at the service.
Ellis retired last year after 50 years of leadership with Tyler-based ETMC. The hospital was part of the merger that created UT Health East Texas.
“The combination of reaching the 50-year milestone as I also reach retirement is gratifying,” Ellis said last year in announcing his retirement. “It has been a remarkable journey, as the healthcare experience and medical technology have changed vastly. I’m proud to have worked with thousands of dedicated team members, physicians and volunteers — the people who daily save lives and care for others.”
Ellis was born on March 5, 1941, in Paris, Texas, the son of Netta Crouch Ellis and Clarence Elmer Ellis. He worked four years at St. Joseph Hospital in Paris before moving to Tyler in 1968 and assuming the role of assistant administrator of what was then known as Medical Center Hospital. He became the president/CEO in 1985, a move that launched ETMC’s rise into a multi-hospital health network serving East Texas.
Ellis began to explore the possibilities of aligning with smaller communities to extend care into the region by developing a regional network of facilities and services with a goal of providing a continuum of care for East Texans.
“As I started thinking about what we could do for the rural hospitals of East Texas, I realized that we had to become problem solvers,” Ellis said in a prior statement. “That role carried the obligation to do the right thing by advancing healthcare to the highest level possible in these home communities.”
Under Ellis’ leadership, ETMC Tyler was designated as a Level I Trauma Center and its centers of excellence broadened to include advanced specialties in cardiology, cancer, neurology, movement disorders, behavioral health and kidney transplantation.
Ellis oversaw the development of East Texas Medical Center EMS into one of the largest not-for-profit providers of ambulance services in the region.
In 2011, as requested through a charitable gift from The Robert M. Rogers Foundation, the emergency department at ETMC Tyler was named the Elmer G. Ellis Trauma Center.
He was a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a past chairman of the Texas Hospital Association. He was honored with THA’s Earl M. Collier Award for Distinguished Healthcare Administration in 2006. Other honors include induction in the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame and recognition from the Boy Scouts of America with the Distinguished Citizen Good Turn Award. Over the years, he served on boards of many agencies.
“If you look at the level of service of the healthcare providers we have in our community compared to cities our size, we have Elmer Ellis to thank for that,” Kevin Eltife, a former Tyler mayor and state senator, said when Ellis retired.
He is survived by his wife, Betsy Marsh Smith Ellis, of Tyler; his son, Matthew Ellis, of Dallas; his daughter, Amanda Ellis, of Austin; and his step-children, Kingsley Smith, Dr. Evans Smith and Elizabeth Smith-Ortega, of San Antonio. Additional survivors are grandchildren MaGee Smith, Henry Smith, Taylor Smith, Marshall Smith, Ellie Tapp and Aurora Ortega.
Honorary pallbearers will be his grandchildren.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Boy Scouts of America, the Salvation Army and The Hospice of East Texas Foundation.