ETMC President, CEO to retire this month, celebrate 50 years

ETMC President, CEO to retire this month, celebrate 50 years
Elmer G. Ellis


As Elmer G. Ellis, president/CEO of the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System (ETMC), looks toward retirement on Feb. 28, he also will be honored for 50 years of service to ETMC. Several special events – including a service awards dinner, community leadership reception and ETMC team member reception – will take place during February.

Ellis moved to Tyler in 1968 to assume the role of assistant administrator of Medical Center Hospital (now ETMC Tyler). From there, his career advanced to the position of president/CEO in 1985, a move that also launched ETMC's rise into a multi-hospital health network serving East Texas.

"The combination of reaching the 50-year milestone as I also reach retirement is gratifying," said Ellis. "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."

A native of Paris, Texas, Ellis turned his love for East Texas into a legacy of care for its residents. With Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Business Administration degrees from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M-Commerce), Ellis began his career at St. Joseph Hospital in Paris. Just four years later – in 1968 – he moved to Tyler to join the organization now known as the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System.

As early as the 1970s, Ellis began to explore the possibilities of aligning with smaller communities to extend care into the region. By defying the conventional wisdom of the time, he developed a regional network of facilities and services that today provide 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," said Ellis. "That role carried the obligation to do the right thing by advancing healthcare to the highest level possible in these home communities."

At the heart of this mission has been Ellis's belief that emergency care should be available to people no matter where they choose to live, whether in a city environment or in the country.

This focus led to the development of East Texas Medical Center EMS, one of the largest not-for-profit providers of ambulance services in the nation. Equally important was the achievement of the designation of ETMC Tyler as a Level I Trauma Center – a feat almost unheard of for a non-university affiliated hospital.

Under Ellis's leadership, ETMC Tyler's centers of excellence broadened to include advanced specialties in cardiology, cancer, neurology, movement disorders, behavioral health and kidney transplantation. Equally important is the continuum of care for East Texans, with ETMC hospitals, clinics and rehabilitation facilities located throughout the region. He has been lauded by numerous local, state and national groups, including the Texas Hospital Association's highest honor: the Earl M. Collier Award for Distinguished Healthcare Administration. Overall, the ETMC system adds greatly to the quality of life for our region and reflects Ellis's quest for excellence, according to community leaders.

"When I look back to when I first came here and see where we are today, most of it is the house that Elmer built, really," noted long-time ETMC system board member, Wade C. Ridley. "He had a vision, and we latched on to that."

"What we have here is incredible," said Kevin Eltife, former state senator. "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. He's done an incredible job with ETMC."

One year ago, as the national healthcare perspective continued to change, ETMC's leadership began the search for a strategic partner that could help carry forward its mission of improving the health and quality of life in the region.

"After a deliberate and thoughtful process, our Board of Directors is pleased to select Ardent Health Services and The University of Texas System as the right partners for ETMC to take up our mission of care," said Ellis last fall. "This acquisition will allow ETMC to grow and thrive in the East Texas region, with new partners who can best provide the necessary clinical expertise, operational proficiency, employee development and financial resources to deliver the best care possible to our patients."

The newly created health system under Ardent Health Services – to include all the ETMC hospitals and clinics as well as those of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (UT Health Northeast) – is targeted to begin operations on March 1. A new organizational name and overall corporate identity will be announced to the public at a time later that month.

For Ellis and the community, this will be a time of reflection and new beginnings. As he noted, "ETMC's guiding philosophy has been to put the patient first, and everything else then falls into place. That patient-centered care – delivered by a first-class medical team – will continue to distinguish this organization. It's been my privilege to serve with such outstanding people for 50 years."