Under his leadership, the department rose nationally and internationally, including moving from No. 39 to No. 8 in NIH rankings. He expanded the clinical and educational missions of the department by creating new divisions and fellowship programs, overseeing the transition of the new Prentice Women’s Hospital and developing new training opportunities at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County.
“Sherman Elias was the consummate physician, mentor and friend,” said Lee P. Shulman, MD, chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology-Clinical Genetics and the Anna Lapham Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “He helped guide the careers of numerous successful academicians, clinicians and researchers, and he did so with wisdom and kindness. He will be sorely missed, but his legacy will continue for generations.”
His research focused on reproductive genetics, including prenatal diagnosis using fetal cells and nucleic acids from maternal blood. Dr. Elias also had an interest in medical ethics as related to prenatal genetic screening and diagnosis and reproduction. He authored over 375 articles, reviews and chapters as well as 6 books.
“Dr. Elias was a friend and valued mentor to countless physicians and scientists in the fields of obstetrics and genetics,” said Jeffrey S. Dungan, MD, chief Obstetrics and Gynecology-Diagnostic Ultrasound. “He was a pioneer in the specialized area of prenatal genetics, and his research and publications in this area were visionary. I will remember him most for his deep passion for the ethical foundations that guide us every day in this field.”
Serdar E. Bulun, MD, chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said, “Dr. Elias was a phenomenally successful physician scientist. He was also a great mentor and fully committed to developing the careers of others including mine.”
Before joining Northwestern in 2003, Dr. Elias was professor and Henry and Emma Meyer Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology and professor of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the William G. Arends Chair, and Phillip and Beverly Goldstick Professor of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Dr. Elias served as president of the Society of Gynecologic Investigation, director of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, secretary of the International Society for Prenatal Diagnosis, president of the Central Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, vice president for Clinical Practice of the American College of Medical Genetics and president of the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Foundation. He was a diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a diplomate of the American Board of Medical Genetics.
He was the recipient of the Basil O’Connor Award and the Jonas Salk Health Leadership Award in Research from the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg National Fellowship Award, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Kentucky and was named a University of Illinois Scholar.
Dr. Elias earned his medical degree from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He began his obstetrics and gynecology residency at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago and completed it at the University of Louisville, where he served as chief resident. He completed his postdoctoral fellowships in genetics at Yale University School of Medicine and at Feinberg.
Dr. Elias is survived by his wife, Shelley; son Kevin Meyer Elias, MD, and daughter-in-law Josephine Elias; son Benjamin Artman Elias and daughter-in-law Elaine Parker, MD; and grandchildren Eitan Daniel Elias and Abigail Esther Elias.
Funeral Services will be 11:00 a.m. Thursday, July 17, 2014 at Herman Meyer & Son, 1338 Ellison Avenue with burial to follow in Keneseth Israel Cemetery. Visitation will begin after 10 a.m. Expressions of sympathy may be made to March of Dimes, the Jewish National Fund or donor’s favorite charity.