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Enhancing the Resident Experience: The Ezell Endowed Resident Education Fund
When Dr. Roy Ezell returned to his hometown of Nashville after ten years in the Air Force, he came back trained as an ophthalmologist. Ezell settled in with his wife, Marian, and established his Nashville area practice in suburban Donelson. Almost immediately he got engaged with Vanderbilt.
“There were no hospitals in the Donelson area at that time, so I had to rely on Vanderbilt and the other downtown hospitals to perform surgery,” he explains. Throughout his years of private practice, Dr. Ezell served on the Ophthalmology department’s clinical faculty, supervising resident surgery at both Nashville General and the Veterans Administration hospital.
One of these residents was his daughter, Meredith. Since Meredith’s Vanderbilt residency, she and her parents and younger sister, Carole, have supported Ophthalmology resident training. In 2004, the family established the Ezell Endowed Resident Education Fund.
When Roy Ezell joined the clinical faculty of the Vanderbilt Ophthalmology department, Dr. James Elliott was its only full-time academic ophthalmologist. Dr. Ezell’s relationship with the department lasted through his 40 years of practice.
“It’s really rewarding to see how far the residents come in the time they’re here,” he laughs. “It’s scary ... they get smarter than you are!”
Dr. Meredith Ezell earned her medical degree from the University of Tennessee’s College of Medicine in Memphis. She completed her internship at Methodist Hospital in Memphis and then came to Vanderbilt as a resident.
During her residency, she attended a summer-long ophthalmology course at Colby College in Maine. It surprised her that many of the other attending residents had been sponsored by their institutions. “When she came home,” says her father, “she thought we should give Vanderbilt some money to support this kind of enhanced training experience for other residents – those who might not be able to afford to attend on their own.”
But this was just the beginning of their philanthropy. When Meredith started her own practice, she too joined the Vanderbilt Eye Institute’s clinical staff and began supervising resident surgery. “We decided to take some of the money we were getting paid for teaching and put it back into resident education,” she explains. In 2007, when the new VEI clinic was built, the Ezells endowed the resident education suite.
“When I was a resident,” recalls Meredith, “we didn’t have a place to store our belongings or just hang out. I had to put my purse under the secretaries’ desks. I thought it would be great for residents to have this space of their own…with lockers!” Both Ezells have seen the ophthalmology residency training program grow dramatically. And they plan to keep giving.
“Resident training has improved so much since I’ve been involved,” says Roy Ezell. “We want Vanderbilt to continue to be at the forefront of ophthalmology programs in the country.”