It’s a match made in…Buckeye country: Dr. E. Christopher Ellison, Interim Dean of the College of Medicine and Dr. Mary Pat Borgess, President of the College’s Medical Alumni Society. For all their impressive professional achievements, their enduring marriage may just be the accomplishment they value the most.
They met and worked together as residents here at Ohio State and married at the end of their residencies—37 years ago. Their relationship is based on mutual respect and shared interests: family, the science of medicine, and their alma mater. Their accomplishments are legendary. He has authored or co-authored more than 150 articles and two books while winning dozens of awards for advancing the science of surgery. An eminent radiologist, she is Chair of Ohio Health’s Institutional Review Board, past director of Riverside Methodist Hospital’s Breast Imaging program, and formerly on the College of Medicine’s Admissions Committee.
How does a “power couple” balance stellar careers and family life? They admit it’s a challenge. When their two sons were young, “time off” meant kid-focused activities. “Now that the boys are grown, we have a little more time for movies, the symphony, dinners out, and hiking with our dogs,” Dr. Borgess says.
They also share a strong commitment to Ohio State. They contribute to COM’s annual fund and have endowed a Surgery Honors Program scholarship. Dr. Borgess stresses, “What we are today is because of the schools. Higher education is a privilege. We need to respect and recognize that and give back for what we’ve been given.”
Dr. Ellison puts it this way: “Once you’re a Buckeye, you’re always a Buckeye.” He comes by his loyalty honestly: his father was a professor of surgery here. The younger Ellison earned Bachelor’s and M.D. degrees in Wisconsin, but chose OSU for his residency. Besides having family in the area, he had great respect for the chair, Larry Carey, who was a resident and faculty member under Ellison’s father in Milwaukee. He also wanted to work with Dr. Robert Zollinger, who had trained his father. When they were faculty at Ohio State, Zollinger and Edwin Ellison discovered Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, a condition in which tumors cause the stomach to produce too much acid. Dr. Zollinger’s son and the younger Ellison would later collaborate on a surgical atlas with an anticipated 10th printing in April.
He values the quality of physicians, faculty, nurses, and other healthcare workers here, and the unique curriculum. “Having students as part of patient care early in their training is phenomenal because they look at things in different ways,” he notes. “The environment is very receptive to viewing patients holistically. And no matter what type of problems patients have, we have great specialists available.”
Dr. Borgess, a COM alumna, chose OSU for her residency because “the people were wonderful, and it felt like home.” A member of the Alumni Board of Governors, she works to get alumni involved with students via social and professional events, and to provide more scholarships to attract the best students. Dr. Ellison also participates “to reestablish relationships with people and see what they’re doing now.”
Dr. Borgess is delighted: “He’s wonderful with the Alumni Board—he makes time to participate in many activities, and now we’re both going to the same events rather than going in two different directions.”
As for their future directions, travel will play a big part. They are considering a trip to Scandinavia to dogsled across northern Sweden to view the Northern Lights. How will they spend Valentine’s Day? A quiet evening together, with Ellison wearing his chef’s hat and preparing a gourmet dinner.