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VUMC mourns loss of integrative medicine pioneer Elam

Aug. 23, 2018, 11:15 AM

Roy Elam III, MD, emeritus associate professor of Internal Medicine and founding medical director for the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, died Aug. 20. He was 71.

Roy Elam III, MD

Dr. Elam had been the Osher Center’s medical director since it opened in 2006 and stepped down from this role in 2015. A member of the Vanderbilt faculty since 1976, Dr. Elam was the first director of Vanderbilt Palliative Care.

A native Nashvillian, Dr. Elam said his early life experience caring for a mother with a chronic health condition influenced his decision to become a physician. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of the South and his medical degree from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He came to Vanderbilt for his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in gastroenterology.

Dr. Elam was an early pioneer of mindfulness in medicine. He spent his career specializing and working with patients who are living with chronic pain, who were seeking information about complementary therapies, or who wanted to improve their health by making lifestyle changes.

He was known for teaching the Healing Arts and the VPIL curricula. He served as faculty advisor to the Honor Council at Vanderbilt School of Medicine and as Ombudsman. He was chair of the Mayor’s Healthy Nashville 2010 Leadership Council. He served as a board member for Leadership Nashville, Baptist Healing Trust and Alive Hospice.

Dr. Elam was involved in mind-body medicine in the Nashville community since the 1990s and introduced, with Gordon Peerman, a mindfulness-based stress reduction course to the Nashville community.

Dr. Elam was preceded in death by his wife, Carol Clark Elam. Survivors include his wife Kaye White Elam, his son Roy Oscar Elam IV, daughter Clark Elam Harwell, and six grandchildren.

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