James Ellison, M.D., MPH, the Swank Foundation Endowed Chair in Memory Care and Geriatrics, has been honored with a 2022 Exemplary Psychiatrist Award by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Ellison leads ChristianaCare’s Swank Center for Memory Care and Geriatric Consultation.
Ellison is among just 16 of the nation’s top psychiatric experts recognized this year for exceptional contributions to improve the lives of people with mental health conditions through care, research and education.
Joshua Thomas, Ph.D., chief executive officer and executive director of NAMI Delaware, nominated Ellison for the national honor.
“Dr. Ellison is a true gift to Delaware,” Thomas said. “I have personally witnessed the respectful and dignified way he presents information, offers reassurance, provides hope and works to surround individuals and families with needed care and support.”
A geriatric psychiatrist and an expert in psychopharmacology, Ellison is part of an interdisciplinary consultative team treating people with mild to severe cognitive difficulties and related emotional and behavioral conditions.
Under Ellison’s leadership, the Swank Center for Memory Care and Geriatrics is Delaware’s first and most comprehensive outpatient practice serving patients with memory disorders and their families with support, education and guidance from diagnosis through treatment.
Services include general geriatric health care consultation, fall prevention assessments through the Safe Steps program, and community education about healthy cognitive aging through the Memory Ambassadors program.
“I feel hopeful that public awareness of dementia is growing and that people are becoming more knowledgeable about the lifestyle interventions that can delay or prevent decline,” Ellison said.
“I also feel that resources for caregivers at home are increasing, and that professional health care providers are learning more about tools for early detection and effective interventions to improve cognitive and behavioral care.”
Working with Ellison, NAMI Delaware added a special session to their training for law enforcement personnel on how they can help older adults experiencing confusion, agitation, psychosis, and depression.
“Before coming to Delaware, I was well aware of NAMI’s important work in public education, advocacy and support,” Ellison said, “and we are fortunate to have their very active support in Delaware. I’m honored by this recognition.”
Ellison’s research addresses cognitive and behavioral aspects of the neurocognitive disorders, and he has served as a site principal investigator in multiple trials of new medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
The award also recognizes Ellison’s contributions toward educating patients, families and the public about mental illness, and fighting against prejudice and discrimination as he helps to shape state and local services. Ellison was appointed by Delaware Gov. John Carney to serve as the psychiatrist representative to the Delaware Behavioral Health Consortium.
Ellison has broadened public and professional awareness of mood symptoms in geriatric populations. He speaks to public interest groups and has lobbied for legislative reforms in the care of the elderly. He teaches and supervises physicians in training and practicing physicians, lectures extensively and presents at national conferences.
A Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Ellison is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology. He reviews manuscripts for several other journals and has authored multiple articles and books.