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Kelly Ellis, MD (second from left), and her husband, Shawn (third from left) with their five children.

Emergency Medicine Physician Serves Others in More Ways Than One

April 29, 2022
When GBMC opened in 1965, private patient rooms were a novelty. Since then, the needs of patients, their families and our care teams have grown. The Promise Project will make spaces bigger, but the way care is delivered will remain as patient focused as ever.

Kelly Ellis, MD, Emergency Medicine, has seen GBMC through many changes—both structural and societal. The Emergency Department (ED) she practices in today looks very different from the one former Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine Dr. John Wogan hired her into 20 years ago, both in square footage and in the types of conditions her night-shift team navigate.

The past few years have not been easy, and The Promise Project is new change on top of existing change. Dr. Ellis is a leader in not only recognizing the connection between change and innovation, between disruption and resilience, but also in realizing both parallels exist for growth.

“The hospital has so many goals it is trying to achieve, and we have teams of people working on all of them,” Dr. Ellis said. “To stop one team from working toward its goal because we can’t solve another problem doesn’t help with forward progress. We need to work in parallel. We need to improve our facilities and at the same time, strive to get through a nursing shortage following a pandemic that exhausted our staff.”

As an Emergency Medicine physician, Dr. Ellis is on the front line of the pandemic and recalls the early days of spreading the ED’s footprint into tents outside to treat patients or putting stretchers in the lobby for patients to rest while they waited for rooms. Throughout the frustration, fear, and exhaustion of the pandemic, Dr. Ellis remained confident in her team’s resilience.

“We had a lot of challenging changes in the past two years, but there’s always been a patient-centric focus,” Dr. Ellis said. “From the minute I was hired, everybody has been focused on how we can make the patient experience as good as it can be. Patients are treated with such empathy and kindness from everybody involved in the care process, from housekeeping to nurses to clinicians to everyone in between. They are all patient centered.”

Dr. Ellis has spent her entire professional career at GBMC. She had just completed her residency and was pregnant with her second child when she and her husband, Shawn, decided to stay in Baltimore, at least for a bit. Twenty years and three more children later, Baltimore—and GBMC—are officially home.

“It is so much more than a job; it’s a career, a huge part of my life and every physician’s life,” Dr. Ellis said. “I don’t think you get into medicine for any other reason than you are called to make a difference. I have always wanted to, in whatever little way I can, support that mission.”

The Ellis’ gift to The Promise Project comes from a dedication to patient-centered care that plays out in Dr. Ellis’ daily work. More importantly, the couple donates as proud members of the community. Their children were born at GBMC, many in the family have had surgery at the hospital. And as Dr. Ellis has watched her 5-year-old niece battle cancer at a different institution, her commitment to seeing children and adult patients receive comprehensive and holistic care has remained steadfast.

“Until you hear the word ‘cancer’ and your whole world is turned upside down, you just can’t even imagine what needs you might have, regardless of your sex, age, race or economic status,” Dr. Ellis said. “I think GBMC does a really good job of meeting patients’ needs before they even know what those needs are. By no means am I an expert in oncology care, but I want to support that any way I can. Maybe someday I or one of my loved ones will need it, but I believe in what GBMC leadership is doing for all patients and want to be a part of it.”

The Ellis’ core philosophy is to be in service to others. Through their respective professional and personal lives, commitment to community, and philanthropy, they are a shining example of hope. Dr. Ellis embodies the mission of GBMC and her family’s gift to The Promise Project will ensure patient-centered care continues well into the future.
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