The Passing of Dr. Lee H. Ellison, Peace Corps Physician
Dr. Lee Hayes Ellison, as a Staff Physician, created Malawi’s first country-wide baby clinic project, a groundbreaking Peace Corps initiative in the newly-independent country of Malawi, in southwest Africa. The goal of the project was to combat childhood diseases, infant mortality and malnutrition.
From 1965 to 1967, Dr. Ellison drove countless hours all over the country in a Land Rover, usually on unpaved, washboard dirt roads, pockmarked with potholes, and washed out by floods, supervising the work of the “Malawi XI” Under-Fives’ Baby Clinic Project (1966-1968).
Dr. Ellison helped his young Bachelor of Arts degree Volunteers throughout the country to set up clinics in which they administered immunizations for childhood diseases, weighed babies, checked for growth and developmental delays, and conducted health education at rural health centers and villages, in close coordination with Malawi medical staff and local authorities.
Later, as a Clinical Professor at the University of Connecticut and Hartford Hospital, he became world renowned for his innovative surgical techniques, dozens of academic research publications and being the first to do many complex and life-saving pediatric cardiac surgeries.
He was appointed Chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery at Hartford Hospital and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. He approached life with positive energy, enthusiasm, and a genuine love of humankind. He was an avid skier and sailor.
In 2003 he took his family on a five-year, 25,000 nautical miles journey in the Caribbean and the South Pacific. The journey was chronicled by Dr. Ellison’s son, Alex Ellison, in his memoir, A Star to Sail Her By.
Dr. Ellison became a renowned sculptor in his home state of Connecticut. His biggest sculpture – a granite representation of a sea lion weighing 800 pounds – is on display at Mystic Seaport.
Dr. Ellison’s life was a remarkable odyssey, from Peace Corps physician who created Malawi’s first Peace Corps country-wide baby clinic project, to a renowned Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon, to ocean navigator, to stone sculptor and artist.
His loving family was the “best part of my life,” and he is survived by his adoring wife Marybeth; his children, Lars, Kristin, Alexander, and Lara; and two grandchildren. He also has a large extended family of loving sisters-and-brothers-in-law, many nieces and nephews, dear friends, and “the world’s best mother-in-law, Helen Pytlik.”
by Arthur K. Weinstein (Malawi 1964-67)
Dr. Ellison’s obituary published in the New Haven Register: Lee Ellison Obituary (2022) – Durham, CT – New Haven Register (legacy.com)