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Lloyd Elam, M.D.

A prominent teacher and educational leader, Dr. Lloyd Elam is responsible for a long career of promoting psychiatric health. He founded and chaired Meharry’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and served for 13 years as President of Meharry Medical College.

Dr. Elam earned his bachelor’s from Roosevelt University in 1950. After two years of military service in the United States Army, he earned his M.D. from University of Washington (1957). He completed an internship at the University of Illinois and his residency in psychiatry at the University of Chicago. He then took a job as an assistant professor of psychiatry and faculty member in the Department of Internal Medicine at Meharry Medical College. Later, he was promoted to professor of psychiatry. He went on to establish and chair Meharry’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He also instituted the Inpatient Psychiatry Program and the Residency Program—all in a few short years. This Residency Program has continued uninterrupted as a fully accredited program since its founding. In 1965, the same year he initiated the Residency Program, Dr. Elam also launched one of the first hospital day programs in the city for psychiatric patients.

That same year, Dr. Elam was named as chancellor of Meharry Medical College. After a year as chancellor, he took a sabbatical to work as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He then returned to Meharry for two years as interim dean of the Meharry School of Medicine.

Then, at the remarkable age of 39, he was inaugurated as the sixth President of Meharry Medical College—a role he held from 1968 to 1981. During his tenure, Meharry increased its acreage and number of buildings by 600 percent. One of the buildings constructed during that time is the Community Mental Health Center, which now bears his name.

Dr. Elam served as a distinguished professor of psychiatry at Meharry from 1982 until his retirement in 1996. He then served as a volunteer lecturer for the Department and remained active in the practice of psychiatry. He was a compassionate and revered counselor and teacher for students and residents.

Dr. Elam was a member of many professional and volunteer associations. He served terms as President of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association, the Volunteer State Medical Association and Friends of Metro General Hospital. He was a member of the National Medical Association, American Medical Association, Southern Medical Association, Tennessee Medical Association, Nashville Academy of Medicine, American Psychiatric Association, American College of Psychiatrists, Institute of Medicine, Black Psychiatrists of America and Public Health Council of Middle Tennessee. He served on the boards of Metropolitan Hospital Authority, Tennessee Advisory Public Health Council, Nashville Mental Health Association, Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry and the National Board of Medical Examiners. He also was a member of the Visiting Committees of Harvard Medical School and School of Dental Medicine.

With humility and grace, Dr. Elam accepted numerous awards and accolades from various educational, civic, religious and community organizations. He is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. He held honorary degrees from Harvard University, St. Lawrence University, Roosevelt University and Meharry Medical College. The Dr. Lloyd C. Elam Golf Classic, an annual fundraiser which supports vitiligo and sickle cell research, was created to honor his unrelenting devotion to this cause. Because of his compassion and commitment to serving others, he was widely respected and admired throughout the nation.