April 23, 2015

VU mourns loss of noted ophthalmologist Elliott

A Celebration of Life service for James Howard Elliott, M.D., will be held Sunday, May 17, at noon at Benton Chapel.

A Celebration of Life service for James Howard Elliott, M.D., will be held Sunday, May 17, at noon at Benton Chapel.

James Howard Elliott, M.D.

Dr. Elliott, professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Emeritus, was the first chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He died Friday, April 17. He was 88.

Dr. Elliott joined the faculty at Vanderbilt in 1966 and was later named chief of the Division of Ophthalmology. He served as director of the Ophthalmology Training Program, which at the time trained two residents per year. Under Dr. Elliott’s leadership, Vanderbilt received its first NIH vision research grant.

In 1972, the division became a department and he was appointed professor and named the inaugural chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, a post he held until 1992. During his tenure, Dr. Elliott laid the groundwork for subsequent development of the department’s strong residency program.

“Dr. Elliott was truly the father of our department: the first full time ophthalmologist at Vanderbilt and our first chairman,” said Paul Sternberg Jr., M.D., assistant vice chancellor for Adult Health Affairs, George Weeks Hale Professor of Ophthalmology and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

“Jim was beloved throughout the community and across the country, both by patients and colleagues. He was an upbeat, energetic, enthusiastic man of many talents and will be missed greatly.”

Born in 1927, Dr. Elliott received his bachelor’s degree from Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, and graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Oklahoma Medical School in 1952. He completed four years of work as a research fellow and instructor of ophthalmology at the Harvard Medical School from 1962-1966.

Internationally known for his contributions in Ophthalmology, Dr. Elliott was a member of many national ophthalmologic societies and authored more than 100 published papers in ophthalmology journals as well as a textbook on ocular inflammation.

Dr. Elliott’s expertise as a teacher and his skills in patient care, particularly in the realm of corneal and external diseases, uveitis and corneal transplantation left a lasting mark in Ophthalmology, said Sternberg.

An avid tennis player and golfer, Dr. Elliott is survived by his wife of 37 years, Roberta Hart Meyers Elliott; three sons, Rick Elliott, Jack Elliott and Steve Elliot; one daughter, Elaine Hall; one step-daughter, Tamara Hart Simone; one stepson, Robert Allen Meyers Jr.; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Elliott Fund, Vanderbilt University Medical Center Development and Alumni Relations, 2525 West End Ave.