Science and faith intersect for Craig’s Dr. J. Scott Ellis
January 29, 2011
Years ago, when Dr. J. Scott Ellis was in his residency, he had a flashback to his childhood.
"I was doing a difficult forceps delivery late one night," Ellis said. "I don't know where the thought came from, but I was suddenly reminiscing on being a kid, and I couldn't help but chuckle."
Ellis is the chief of obstetrics and chief of staff at The Memorial Hospital in Craig. He is a certified physician executive, Moffat County's medical officer, a member of the Sexual Assault Response Team, and a former U.S. Army major.
Once upon a time, he was also a young cattle rancher.
"When I was a kid living on my uncle's cattle ranch, one of the things I had to do was take care of all the cows that we thought were going to have trouble in birth," he said.
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Ellis was 13 and living with his uncle, Marvin Ellis, in Nashoba, Okla.
"We had what we called the 'North 40 Pasture,'" he said. "I would put all the mamas up in there and when they went into labor, we'd take them up to the barn and my uncle and I would deliver those mamas.
"We'd use everything from chains to come-alongs to you name it. We did C-sections on cows. We did it all."
The experience had an impact on him, he said.
"When I started medical school, I said there are two things I'm not going to do: psychiatry and OB/GYN. Zero interest," he recalled.
However, Ellis took to obstetrics. And, after that difficult delivery during his residency, Ellis called his uncle.
"I had to call him up and say, 'I bet you didn't realize at the time that you were initiating my career.' I couldn't help but laugh and he laughed, too," he said.
Ellis, 46, was raised in Dallas.
He spent 12 years in the Army earning his medical degree, and then five years in private practice in Pampa, Texas.
In April 2008, he moved to Craig with his wife and three children to join the staff at TMH. The hospital board unanimously voted Thursday to extend his contract.
The doctor said he hopes the contract comes through.
"I would be happy with a three- to five-year extension," he said. "I have really enjoyed it here. It's been a very pleasant experience. It's been a welcome change from where I was before."
Ellis said he was familiar with Northwestern Colorado before moving to Craig.
"I just fell in love with the area," he said of an earlier visit.
"I was talking to my wife a few years ago and I said, 'Man, it would sure be nice to live there. I like the people there, I like the environment and I like all the things there are to do.' … One thing led to another."
As a specialist, Ellis said he knows there are plenty of job opportunities in other locations, but it doesn't matter to him.
"It's true that you can go pretty much anywhere you want to go these days, but the places where most people want to go, I don't want to be," he said. "I don't want to be in a city. I hate traffic.
"I live out in the country here, and I have horses and a riding arena. We like it."
Ellis said the pace of work is unpredictable in a rural setting.
"It's kind of hit or miss," he said. "When you live in a big city and you're on call, you'll work hard for 24 or 36 hours. When you live in the country, you have to be kind of careful because it might be slow for a few days, but then it can be really busy for the next week or 10 days and you can't see straight."
Ellis said he does his best to balance his responsibilities between work, family and a social life, but some things slip between the cracks.
"I try to be as active in my church as I can," he said. "I haven't done as much as I'd like to do there. We go to The Journey (at First Baptist) here in town, and we really like that. We like the people there."
Ellis said he believes the pursuits of science and faith are one in the same.
"When you talk about science, I see God revealed in our Earth and in science," he said. "So, for me there is no chasm. One validates the other.
"Everywhere you look in science, and in our environment, and in the human body, I see an amazing demonstration of order. And, I don't think the world or our physical beings are a random event. Not at all.
"When I look up at the stars at night here in Craig, Colorado, on a clear beautiful night, the words that come to mind are, 'The heavens declare the glory of the Lord. The sky has proclaimed the work of His hands.'"
The quote is Psalm 19, Verse 1 of the Bible, Ellis said.
"What it means to me is God is revealed in everything that we see or do," he said. "I don't dispute the fact that God created the heavens and the earth and created us. For me and for many other Christians out there, I guess that's the comfort that keeps us going in this fallen world that we live in."
Ellis said that although he's lost track of the number of babies he's delivered, each one strikes him as miraculous.
"Each and every time," he said. "There are pregnancies and deliveries that always stand out, that bring back incredible memories, that have been fun to be a part of."
Ellis recalled a time when he was in the military. He had just delivered a baby boy and the parents didn't know the gender of the baby until Ellis announced it.
The father of the boy was elated.
"Elation doesn't even begin to describe the joy in this guy's face," Ellis said. "This was a big guy, and he must have been jumping up three feet in the air and just screaming, 'It's a boy, it's a boy, it's a boy,' and just screaming and yelling.
"It was just really neat to see that kind of joy on a guy's face."
But, Ellis said there were difficult times, too.
When he was in the Army, Ellis saw many high-risk, complicated cases, and sometimes he had to inform parents of bad news.
"There is nothing — I'm convinced, anyway — there is no grief on this planet like the grief on a mother who has lost a child," Ellis said. "I've seen it innumerable times. It's always the kind of thing that I hate to see — it's news that I hate to give.
"But there's something very special, I think, about being a doctor. … I mean, being a doctor isn't always about the good times, it's about the bad times, too.
"There's a way to handle giving that kind of news, and I think there's a way to walk through that with people — mother and father and the whole family.
"Even though it's really tough, I think it's a privilege to be a part of that. I hope I've done that well, and done that right."