A Tribute to Scholar Ellen Hughes, MD, PhD

headshot of nova institute scholar ellen hughes


Ellen Hughes, MD, PhD, a cherished educator and physician, lived life as she inspired others to live: with joy, gratitude, profound spirituality, reverence of the great outdoors, and a deep commitment to others—most importantly, her family, friends, colleagues, and medical students.

As a clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Hughes was inspired by her students and their inner spark that propelled them to be healers. Honoring her with award after award—most inspiring teacher, most dedicated clinical professor, and UCSF’s first Humanism in Medicine Award, to name a few—they recognized her for tending that fire.

When she became an Institute Scholar, her bold quest was to unlock the key to healthy aging. Her inquisitive mind probed the secrets of telomeres, Blue Zones, and even playgrounds for adults. She eloquently distilled her knowledge into ten tips that could easily benefit others.

Over the past few years, terminal illness never took away Dr. Hughes’ extraordinary spirit or her vocation. Her actions taught us that even in the face of aging or adversity, one can thrive and live a life that is meaningful and vibrant.

A guiding star in the Institute’s early years, Dr. Hughes significantly influenced our evolution as an organization. We’re exceptionally grateful for her contributions. Through the many ways she touched our lives, her memory and spirit endures.