Wake Forest Baptist Neurosurgeon Ellis Dies at 51

July 3, 2012

Thomas L. (Tom) Ellis, M.D., associate professor of neurosurgery at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, died Saturday, June 30, following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Wake Forest faculty and staff extend their deepest sympathy to his wife, Michel Byrd, and their four children, Nicole, Noel, Noble and Natalie.

Ellis joined Wake Forest Baptist in 2000 as an assistant professor in the Division of Surgical Sciences’ Department of Neurosurgery. He was named an associate professor in 2009 and was the medical director of Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery and the director of the Neurosurgery Residency Program.

“Ellis was a skilled, compassionate neurosurgeon who was loved by the staff and his patients,” said John McConnell, M.D., chief executive officer of Wake Forest Baptist. “His true passion was the education of medical students and residents in neurosurgery.”

During his tenure at Wake Forest Baptist, he was active in research to cure malignant brain tumors, to treat disorders of the brain with the use of neurostimulation, and, in collaboration with scientists at Virginia Tech, to explore the use of a novel system to deliver treatments to specific targets in the brain.

Ellis gave his all up to the very end, McConnell said. He worked all day last Monday with Sam Deadwyler, Ph.D., on a research project, development of hippocampal neural prostheses for people with impaired ability to learn.

“Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of Tom, his family and his patients during this most difficult time,” McConnell said. “His legacy is one of, not just courage and determination, but of grace and unselfishness. We are most privileged to have had him with us and to have learned so much from him.”

He received his undergraduate degree from Duke University and his medical degree from the University of North Carolina before completing residencies in surgery and neurosurgery at the University of Florida’s Shands Hospital. He was a Diplomate of the American Board of Neurological Surgeons and a Fellow of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

A Celebration of Life Ceremony in honor of Ellis will be held on Monday, July 9, at 7 p.m., in Brendle Recital Hall in the Scales Fine Arts Center on the campus of Wake Forest University. The family will receive friends in the lobby following the service. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to the Thomas L. Ellis Neurosurgery Education Endowment, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Office of Alumni Affairs and Development, Medical Center Blvd., 27157-1021.

Media Relations

Mac Ingraham: mingraha@wakehealth.edu, 336-716-3487

Chad Campbell: news@wakehealth.edu, 336-713-4587