In Memorium: Dr. John J. Ross

In Memorium: Dr. John J. Ross

A longtime University of Florida pediatric neurologist who helped found a novel program for children with learning disabilities and in recent years became an advocate for patients in need of lung transplants, Dr. John J. Ross, passed away July 17. He was 83.

A native of Jacksonville’s historic district, Ross was a lifelong athlete who spent his early years on the court or on the track. At Robert E. Lee High School, he was a champion hurdler and part of a track team that won five straight state titles in the 1940s. He was accomplished on the tennis court, too. He started playing at age nine and played competitively throughout college and the grueling years of his medical training. This passion inevitably led him to face off against Arthur Ashe in a doubles match in 1962, and he continued playing throughout his life.

Ross was a graduate of Duke University and Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency training at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, where he met his wife, Nancy. Following residency, he completed fellowships in pediatric neurology and neuropathology and received additional training in adult neurology. A professor emeritus of pediatrics, Ross joined the UF faculty in 1965 as chief of the division of pediatric neurology, a position he held for decades. In 1981, he teamed with UF special education experts from the College of Education to establish a novel program for children with learning disabilities. Called the Multidisciplinary Diagnostic and Training Program, it took a comprehensive approach to helping children with learning disabilities, from figuring out the underlying cause of the problem to tailoring classroom strategies to meet children’s specific needs. Funded by the Florida Legislature, the program quickly became a model for efforts in other states.

He received numerous accolades throughout his career, such as being named School Administrator of the Year for his work with MDTP, and even ran for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 2002. But what friends and colleagues say they will remember most are his integrity, his unwavering commitment to his wife and three children, and how he treated others.

“He was not just a great tennis player, which he was; a great doctor, which we all know; and a wonderful family man, friend and mentor. He was also someone who made others feel like they mattered,”  said Paul Carney, M.D., chief of the division of neurology in the College of Medicine department of pediatrics. “We will miss him. He is one of a kind.”

Ross is survived by his wife of 52 years, Nancy Hays Ross of Gainesville; children, MaryAnn Ross Neill (Michael), John Joseph Ross II (Alexandra), and Edward Henessey Ross; brother, Robert Ross; twin sister, Jeanne Jinks (Bert); nine grandchildren; and a number of nieces and nephews.

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