Dr. Elizabeth Joan James was the textbook definition of the word caring, according to friends and loved ones. 

As the founder of MU’s neonatal intensive care unit, Dr. James saved the lives of hundreds of newborns during her career.

“She was a very caring person, not only about her family but about other people. She was such a kind person, always had a smile on, always was friendly. She was that type of person,” said her sister-in-law Kathleene James.

Dr. James, 79, died Wednesday at her home in Columbia.

She was born on Jan. 15, 1939, in Jefferson City. In 1960, she graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Lincoln University.

She married Ronald James on August 25, 1962, in Jefferson City. The couple met at the MU School of Medicine and together they had two children, Susan James and Jason James. They were grandparents to Taylor Freeman and Jedi James.

After she received her medical degree from the MU School of Medicine in 1965 she completed her internship and residency at MU. She would complete a research fellowship in perinatology at the University of Colorado-Denver before returning to MU in 1971.

Upon her return, she joined the MU Department of Child Health and Obstetrics and Gynecology as an assistant professor. She served the Columbia community for 12 years, as she directed the Child Health Department Education programs. Along the way, she influenced many people, creating connections that would last a lifetime.

“As a pediatrician, she loved children and kept up with some of them regularly, even up to 40 years later,” said friend Dolores Shearon.

In 1982, she became the first recipient of the Young Physician Award from the MU Medical Alumni Organization.

Her list of accomplishments did not stop there. Dr. James has been awarded the Citation of Merit, MU’s Alumni Association’s Distinguished Faculty Award and the Boone County Medical Society’s Doctor of the Year award.

In recent years, Dr. James had put her heart and soul into A Call To Serve-International, a non-profit organization that helps the people of the country of Georgia.

She and her husband had been a part of the organization since 1996, as her husband helped co-found the ACTS-Lions Ronald James Georgian Diabetic Children Camp located in Georgia. The camp has helped more than 1,200 children since it opened in 1996, said Shearon.

When Ronald James died in  2006, it became Dr. James' passion to continue his legacy.

“She just loved to hear reports about how the camp was going, it just delighted her to no end to hear that the camp was still running,” said Shearon.

When Dr. James was not busy giving a helping hand, she enjoyed the simple things such as cooking and shopping.

“We just enjoyed each other so much, we just enjoyed some of the most simple things together,” said Kathleene James.

Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Memorial Funeral Home. Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Newman Center. Burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery.

Supervising editor is Kaleigh Feldkamp. 


  • I am a senior studying Arts and Culture journalism. Any questions, comments or tips can be emailed to bmr6k5@mail.missouri.edu

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