In Memoriam: Frank “Bunky” Henry Ellis Jr.

Frank “Bunky” Henry Ellis Jr., MD, PhD, clinical professor of surgery emeritus, passed away on Sept. 26, 2011, at the age of 91. For 18 years, from 1971 to 1989, he served as chief of the Division of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at New England Deaconess Hospital, a forerunner of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Ellis graduated from Yale University and in 1944 received his medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Following an internship at Bellevue Hospital and service in the Navy as a lieutenant at the end of World War II, he completed residencies in general and thoracic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and earned a PhD in surgery from the University of Minnesota.

Ellis joined the Mayo Clinic in 1953. With John Kirklin, Dwight McGoon and Sir Brian Barratt-Boyes, he helped pioneer the field of cardiac surgery and published extensively in both cardiac and thoracic surgery. In 1966 Ellis was appointed chief of thoracic surgery; within a few years, he was named chair of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the Lahey Clinic.

In 1970, Ellis was appointed lecturer on surgery at HMS; from 1974 to 1980 he was associate clinical professor of surgery. He held the rank of clinical professor of surgery until mid-1991.

An expert on esophageal diseases and surgery, Ellis published seminal work in basic and clinical research on reflux esophagitis, achalasia and esophageal cancer. Several operative techniques bearing his name are still in use, and his superb skills and success in training others in complex reoperative surgery are widely known.

A past president of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the Society for Vascular Surgery, Dr. Ellis authored more than 550 scholarly works. The F. Henry Ellis Lectureship in Thoracic Surgery each year at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center honors his many contributions. Ellis’ career also included service in Vietnam: In 1968, with the American Medical Association’s Volunteer Physicians for Vietnam, he cared for civilians in Nha Trang during and after the Tet Offensive.

Ellis leaves his second wife, Mary Jane (Walsh) Ellis; eight children; 14 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A memorial service was held in Dedham, Mass., on Oct. 7.