Dr. Roland A. Pattillo, noted gynecologic oncologist, professor, researcher and author, passed away quietly in his home after a long illness on May 3, 2023. He was surrounded by his loving wife and family members.
Dr. Pattillo attended Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a medical degree from St. Louis University in 1959. Dr. Pattillo completed a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at John Hopkins University in 1967. He was the first African American faculty member at Marquette University’s School of Medicine. After a successful career at the Medical College of Wisconsin where he served as Vice Chair of the Department, in 1995 Dr. Pattillo relocated to Atlanta, GA as Interim Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM). He established and directed the Division of Gynecologic Oncology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology during his tenure at MSM.
With more than 100 peer reviewed journal publications, one book, and several book chapters, Dr. Pattillo is widely known for gynecology and oncology research. He received training as a fellow with George Gey, MD, at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Gey is known for culturing the first immortalized cell line from a tissue sample during the treatment of Henrietta Lacks, a cervical cancer patient, which is chronicled in the best-selling book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Dr. Pattillo befriended the Lacks family and maintained a strong relationship over the years. In 2010, he and his wife, Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo, purchased a headstone for Henrietta Lacks’ unmarked grave in Clover, VA.
Rebecca Skloot, author of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” identifies Dr. Roland Pattillo as her contact for the Lacks family. After reading the book, Oprah Winfrey bought rights to the movie which aired on television. Dr. Pattillo appears in that film. At MSM, Dr. Pattillo established the annual HELA Conference that brought medical professionals from throughout the United States and abroad.
Dr. Pattillo was a doctor’s doctor because of his passion and compassion for performing surgeries throughout the world, without compensation. He is also known for traveling to families of friends to help them identify the best doctors, researchers, trials, etc., to help their loved ones.
His expertise, which was sought worldwide, earned him a reputation as a trusted physician and colleague, for which he has received numerous awards and accolades. Dr. Pattillo also founded several gynecologic organizations, including Milwaukee’s Cream City Medical Society.
Dr. Pattillo is survived by his beloved wife of 27 years, Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo; sister, Carolyn Pattillo Davis; children–Catherine Pattillo (David Jefferson), Patrick Pattillo, Sheri Pattillo Johnson, Mary Pattillo, bonus children Todd ‘Speech’ Thomas; grandchildren— Daniel Pattillo (Rachel), Carlos Arriaga (Vicki), Camille and David Michael Jefferson, Vann III and Benjamin Johnson, Jahi and Zoe Renee Thomas; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and relatives. He is preceded in death by his parents; brothers— James, Bertram, Ulric Pattillo; and sister, Geraldine Pattillo Bridges; son, the late Michael Pattillo; bonus son, the late Dr. Terence N. Thomas; and adopted son, the late Bright Boateng.
Funeral mass will be held on Thursday, May 11, 2023 at 10:30 a.m., at the St. George Catholic Church, 771 Roscoe Rd., Newnan, GA 30263. A memorial, in Milwaukee, WI, is set for this summer. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the following:
• Morehouse School of Medicine – Dr. Roland A. Pattillo HeLa Conference Fund, https://giving.msm.edu
• Xavier University of Louisiana – Dr. and Mrs. Roland Pattillo Endowed Scholarship www.giving.xula.edu/pages/memorial-gifts
• Dr. Terence Thomas Memorial Scholarship, www.drtntscholarship.org.