Miller School Mourns Passing of Renowned Geneticist Louis J. “Skip” Elsas Jr., M.D.
Louis J. “Skip” Elsas Jr., M.D., a renowned geneticist and the first director of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Center for Medical Genetics at the Miller School of Medicine, passed away peacefully in Atlanta early Sunday morning, surrounded by his family. He was 75.
Elsas came to the University of Miami in 2002 to lead its burgeoning work in medical genetics. A prominent force in the field, he had built a world-class genetics program at Emory University over three decades that was recognized nationwide.
He knew then that genetics was the future of medicine. Since 1968, he had demonstrated that the field of medical genetics could not only diagnose a genetic risk for disease pre-symptomatically, but also prevent the disease through appropriate intervention.
A clinician who knew the promise of research, Elsas set out to educate both physicians and patients about the laboratory work that would eventually lead to breakthroughs. He built a program that focused on the study of proteins produced by genes and how they worked, with the goal of developing more refined screening techniques that would lead to earlier diagnoses.
Elsas was the past president and chair of a number of prestigious national committees, including the NIH Genes, Genomes and Genetics Integrated Review Group, and Founding President of the Society for Inherited Metabolic Disorders. He also made strides in treating inherited biochemical disorders in newborns and was instrumental in expanding newborn screening in Florida.
“Skip will always be remembered as a fabulous scholar by those who worked with him,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School, and CEO of UHealth. “I had the pleasure and the honor of working with him for a couple of years at the end of his stellar career, as he took on the Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Miller School.
“We could never have built the genetics powerhouse at the Hussman Institute for Human Genomics without Skip’s pioneering work at the Miller School, and the creation of a Center with the support of Dean John G. Clarkson, Dr. R. Rodney Howell and the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation,” Goldschmidt said. “That Foundation’s name is linked forever not only to our Dr. John T. Macdonald Department of Human Genetics, but also to the Endowed Chair held by the Director of the Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, in perpetuity.”
Elsas’ unusually broad expertise and experience, not only as a geneticist, but also as professor of pediatrics, human genetics and biochemistry and molecular biology, underscored his leadership and love for science.
“Skip was a wonderful physician-scientist full of love and passion for his family, patients, and science,” said Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., Pharm.D., the Lucille P. Markey Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “We will always be grateful for his leadership and enthusiasm as Interim Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He will be missed!”
Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, September 21, in Atlanta at The Temple, 1589 Peachtree St. N.E., followed by a public reception.