James M. Ellison, M.D., MPH

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James Ellison, M.D., MPH

James Ellison, M.D., MPH

Director, Swank Center for Memory Care and Geriatric Consultation

Expertise & Research Interests

  • Psychopharmacology
  • Geriatric Mood and Anxiety Disorders
  • Geriatric Psychiatry
  • Psychiatry
  • Cognitive impairment and dementia


  • MD, University of California School of Medicine
  • MA, Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health

James Ellison, M.D., MPH

Director, Swank Center for Memory Care and Geriatric Consultation

Dr. Ellison is a general and geriatric psychiatrist and one of the nation's foremost experts in dementia.

He is the first Swank Foundation Endowed Chair in Memory Care and Geriatrics.

He works as director and consultant geriatric psychiatrist in an interdisciplinary consultative team that includes geriatricians, social workers, a neurologist, and a nurse practitioner devoted to the shared goal of treating people with mild to severe cognitive difficulties and related emotional and behavioral conditions.

His research interests have addressed 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.


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Media Appearances

Lewes-Rehoboth Rotary supports Alzheimer’s research, care and awareness

2019-10-20 , Cape Gazette
Longtime Rotarian Dave Keller and his wife Kathy recently hosted a cocktail party in their Lewes home to support and celebrate the work of Dr. James Ellison and his staff at ChristianaCare’s Swank Center for Memory Care and Geriatric Consultation - Delaware’s premier medical group leading the fight to bring awareness, care and eventually a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Certain Female Vets May Face Higher Dementia Risk

2018-12-12 , WebMD
Her theories were echoed by Dr. James Ellison, chair of memory care and geriatrics at ChristianaCare Health System in Wilmington, Del.

Does moisturizer REALLY cut dementia risk? Study claims healing dry skin reduces chemicals linked to the disease - but that does not mean lotion prevents Alzheimer's, expert warns

2019-03-14 , Daily Mail
'To put it in simple terms: Mr A might know Mr B, and Mr B might know Mr C. But that doesn't necessarily mean Mr C knows Mr A,' explains Dr James Ellison, Swank Foundation Endowed Chair in Memory Care and Geriatrics at ChristianaCare Health System in Delaware.

Experts Revisit Mandatory Age-Based Cognitive Testing for Physicians

2018-07-04 , Medscape
Experts are revisiting the controversial issue of mandatory, age-based cognitive testing to assess physician competence.

Delaware Achievers, Nov. 29

2015-11-24 , The News Journal
ChristianaCare Health System recently welcomed Dr. James M. Ellison, the new Swank Foundation Endowed Chair in Memory Care. Ellison, who joins ChristianaCare from McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, where he most recently served as chief psychiatrist and director of the Memory Disorders Clinic, director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Program and program director for the Partners HealthCare Fellowship in Geriatric Psychiatry. Ellison will lead ChristianaCare’s Swank Memory Care Center for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders. The Swank Memory Care Center was founded in 2011 with a $1.25 million grant from the Howard W. Swank, Alma K. Swank and Richard Kemper Swank Foundation. The foundation also donated a $2.5 million gift to establish the chair. Ellison earned a master’s degree in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health and a medical degree from the University of California School. He completed his residency in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Selected Papers and Publications

Disclosure of a dementia diagnosis: Minimizing medical trauma.

2022-05-31 , Delaware Journal of Public Health

Late life depression: The essentials and the essential distinctions.

2021-07-09 , Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing)
Late life depression (LLD), a familiar syndrome, is not differentiated in the DSM-5. LLD can resemble depressive syndromes in younger adults but it differs in demographic characteristics, phenomenology, prognosis, treatment, suicide risk, relationship to other disorders, and etiology. Older depressed adults often present with fewer major depressive symptoms, less emphasis on mood disturbance, greater preoccupation with somatic or psychotic symptoms, and misleading cognitive deficits. LLD's relationships with medical and neurocognitive symptoms and with inflammatory and immune factors are complex. Formal screening tools and biopsychosocial assessment informs diagnosis and treatment. Evidence supports the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions, several psychotherapies, and a variety of somatic treatment approaches. Comorbid medical disorders must be taken into account when planning treatment. In this article, the authors describe the characteristics of LLD, present an approach to assessment and management, and recommend that future DSM editions include a new specifier to differentiate LLD from other depressive syndromes.

The “counseling+” roles of the speech-language pathologist serving older adults with mild cognitive impairment and dementia from Alzheimer’s Disease

2021-06-29 , Neurogenic Communication Disorders Tutorial
Persons with dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are major consumers of services provided by speech-language pathologists (SLPs). These services include not only direct assessment and treatment of communication and swallowing but also counseling, collaboration, prevention, and wellness. These “counseling+” activities can be especially challenging for SLPs to deliver because of the lack of evidence, as well as the complex nature of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other conditions that cause MCI and dementia.

Effect of aging on the viscoelastic properties of hippocampal subfields assessed with high-resolution MR elastography.

2021-05-10 , J Cereb Blood Flow Metab
Age-related memory impairments have been linked to differences in structural brain parameters, including the integrity of the hippocampus (HC) and its distinct hippocampal subfields (HCsf). Imaging methods sensitive to the underlying tissue microstructure are valuable in characterizing age-related HCsf structural changes that may relate to cognitive function. Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) is a noninvasive MRI technique that can quantify tissue viscoelasticity and may provide additional information about aging effects on HCsf health.

Cause for concern: Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia in Delaware’s long-term care facilities.

2021-03-01 , Delaware Medical Journal
BPSD are a pervasive concern among Delaware's LTCFs. LTCFs may benefit from the development of training programs and dissemination of treatment guidelines incorporating evidence-based interventions and their implementation in managing BPSD to improve care, decrease stress on residents and caregivers, and reduce some avoidable health care costs.

Getting interpersonal: Unmasking the value of social cognition assessment in older adults.

2020-12-09 , Am J Geriatric Psychiatry
.At first glance, the brief report on RMET (Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test) norms in this issue 1 may look like material to skim while focusing more intently on the latest pandemic news. But pay attention...This is a call to increase our awareness of social cognition, an infrequently measured cognitive domain that declines with age and even more with aging plus cognitive impairment. Social cognition can decline in parallel with other cognitive domains such as executive function and language, but it also stands apart. Unlike complex attention, executive function, learning and memory, language or perceptual-motor cognition, social cognition is the only DSM-5 neurocognitive disorder domain that gets interpersonal. Measures of social cognition describe a person's ability to make judgments about others’ behaviors, attitudes, and emotions, 2 a mental function that is critically important for all, especially for people affected by neurocognitive disorders and for their caregivers.

Medicolegal implications of mild neurocognitive disorder.

2020-09-16 , Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology
Even mild cognitive impairment can have significant behavioral consequences. Clinicians can assist care partners and persons with MCI or MiND by alerting them to the medicolegal concerns that often accompany cognitive decline. Early recognition and discussion can help a care system manage medicolegal risk more effectively and promote thoughtful advance planning.

Health care needs of homeless older adults: Examining the needs of a senior center cohort.

2019-12-18 , Delaware Journal of Public Health
To address the health care needs of this population, new programs to improve care should focus on facilitating access to services which address areas of deficiency. This group of older adults has benefited from a range of available services that reflect the work of a staff aware of their medical needs, as indicated by the high rate of insured individuals. Licit and illicit substance use assessment and treatment and dental screening remain areas of need for the homeless older adults interviewed in this study. The high rates of depression and cognitive impairment in both the homeless and non-homeless older adult groups suggest the need for further services in these areas as well. Access to care may be improved by addressing concerns regarding co-payments, deductibles, and transportation to care.

Medical Marijuana and Dementia-Associated Agitation: Stirring the Pot

2017-01-26 , Psychiatric Times
My 79-year-old memory clinic patient arrived with her daughter, whose first question caught me off guard: “Can you prescribe medical marijuana for my mother? I think it might help her agitation better than the medication you gave her last visit.” When I asked her why she thought that marijuana might help, she blushed and turned her eyes briefly away. “Well, the other night she was really bad . . . and we gave her a joint. She really calmed down.”
External Service and Affiliations
  • Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology : Editor
  • American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry
  • Psychiatric Society of Delaware
  • Group for Advancement of Psychiatry
  • American Medical Association
  • Medical Society of Delaware
  • Alpha Omega Alpha
  • American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology
  • American Psychiatric Association