Forrest Daryel Ellis was born in 1932, at home, in Deputy, Indiana. The experiences of growing up during the Great Depression and WW II contributed to the development of the work ethic and humanity that would characterize his professional career.
He graduated from a small public school with a high school class of sixteen other students and was the only college applicant. He then graduated from Indiana University in 1954 with a BA in Anatomy and Physiology and subsequently received his MD degree from Indiana University School of Medicine in 1957. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society.
Dr. Ellis then entered the United States Air Force and was assigned to Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco, California, for an internship, then to the School of Aviation Medicine, Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. As a flight surgeon stationed at Homestead, FL, he accompanied B-47 crews of the 379th Bomb Wing, on flights over North America, the Caribbean, the Atlantic Ocean and Western Europe. He also flew with the Coast Guard on a rescue mission to South America.
Following his military service, Dr. Ellis practiced general medicine in rural Southern Indiana for nine years.
A desire to pursue interests initiated by his flight surgeon training led to a residency in ophthalmology at Indiana University. Upon completion of this residency in 1972, he began a general practice of ophthalmology, but returned to Indiana University as a Fellow in the Pediatric Ophthalmology program directed by Gene Helveston, MD. He then joined Dr. Helveston as a Department of Ophthalmology faculty member.
Pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus was a relatively new sub-specialty not well defined at that time, but it stimulated Dr. Ellis’s intellectual curiosity and presented to him opportunities for organization, definition, and discovery. He served as Co-Director of Pediatric Ophthalmology from 1974-1997, and participated in the training of many medical students, ophthalmology residents, and over 60 pediatric ophthalmology fellows. Known for his use of benevolent query, Dr. Ellis encouraged residents and fellows to think of the entire patient, not just the eyes, in order to arrive at an overall diagnosis before considering an ocular treatment plan.
Respected for his clinical and surgical skills, Dr. Ellis practiced comprehensive ophthalmology for children. The range of pathology seen in his clinics or treated surgically included retinal disorders, neurological problems, orbital tumors, orbital surgery, craniofacial disorders, strabismus, glaucoma, anterior segment, and pediatric cataract surgery. His teaching emphasis was first and foremost the recognition and associations attendant to children’s ocular and genetic disorders.
During his career he published over one hundred peer reviewed scientific articles, numerous book chapters, and abstracts. Dr. Ellis delivered several named lectures including the 2000 Costenbader lecture. He is a past-president of AAPOS, the Indianapolis Ophthalmological Society, the Indiana Academy of Ophthalmology (Humanitarian of the Year Service Award, 1993, Lifetime Service Award, 2017), and The American Eye Study Club. He was a recipient of an NIH ROP grant and has served on NIH committees evaluating grant applications and botox informational data. He was appointed by the Governor of the State of Indiana to the Advisory Committee of the Indiana School for the Blind in 1993.
Dr. Ellis retired from Indiana University in 1997 and is now Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology. After retirement from IUMC, he continued to work part-time at Midwest Eye Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana, for another five years.
Dr. Ellis believes that his major academic contributions exist in the hearts and minds of his colleagues, students, and family members. He shares his passion for pediatric ophthalmology with his son, Forrest James Ellis, MD, and his daughter-in-law, Amy Jeffery, MD. When time allowed, he competed at a high level in both time-distance-fuel airplane races as well as sailboat races throughout the Great Lakes. Presently, he endeavors to improve his golf game and to learn how to paint with oils. Dr. Ellis and his wife Susie live in Zionsville, IN, devoting time to their families; which presently includes twelve grandchildren, and five-soon-to-be-six great-grandchildren.