TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Caregivers with UT Health Tyler lined Beckham Avenue Tuesday morning to honor the man who helped pave the way for the UT Health network to become what it is today.
Following a private family service, hospital staff conducted an Honor Code for Elmer Ellis, the former longtime CEO of East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare, who died Sunday. Ellis’ funeral procession passed through the area on its way to Green Acres Baptist Church, where a celebration of life ceremony was held at 11 a.m.
“We certainly lost a giant in healthcare [Sunday]. Not only just locally here, but an individual whose had an impact on the delivery of healthcare at hospitals around the state of Texas, and on a national level,” Kirk A. Calhoun, MD, President of UT Health Science Center at Tyler. “We will miss him quite a bit.”
Ellis is credited with creating the current model of health care in East Texas. John Smith, CEO for EMS and Air One at UT Health Tyler, said when he first started as a paramedic 10 years ago at what was formerly ETMC, it didn’t take long to learn of Ellis’ passion for the field.
“When I first got here, I was told we have a president of the company who really has a passion for EMS,” Smith recalled. “And then, as I got to meet Mr. Ellis, as you walk into the hospital, you see him walking down the sidewalk he would always stop to talk to you as a paramedic, as an EMS manager; every time he saw one of our crews, he just lit up.”
Ellis’ vision didn’t just shape health care in East Texas, it influenced the people he worked with in creating and maintaining it.
“He was visionary in seeings the needs,” Smith explained. “Back then, you would only have some of these services that we take for granted in East Texas, [they] were only allowed in big cities. But he saw the need for the helicopter service, he saw the need for a top-rated EMS service, and he brought that to East Texas.”
“I think he was able to make tough decision; to sacrifice for this community in ways that are special, that we can all learn from,” said Dr. Calhoun. “I certainly had opportunities to learn how to be a better healthcare provider and to better serve our community in general.”
Ellis retired in Feb. 2018 after 50 years of service to ETMC. According to an obituary from the Burks-Walker-Tippit Funeral Directors, Ellis died Sunday surrounded by his family. He was 78 years old.