Elisha Hornblower “Skip” Atkins, 70, of Cambridge, MA, died suddenly on August 7, 2019. Through his work as a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Chelsea Healthcare Center, he touched countless people’s lives. Although humble and self-deprecating about his professional accomplishments, he leaves a long list of them in his wake, among them: Unit Chief of MGH Chelsea Adult Medicine from 2009-2019; chairman of the City of Chelsea Board of Health for more than a decade; and the Medical Director of the Employee Health Service at MGH for many years. In 2009 he received a Partners In Excellence Award for Outstanding Performance and Commitment to Excellence. Proficient in five languages, Skip was a fierce advocate for MGH Chelsea’s immigrant and refugee patients, helping to coordinate a legal clinic to assist them in immigration matters, and spearheading meetings with community agencies to discuss issues facing MGH Chelsea’s Latino patients and staff.
Those accolades, however, hardly defined his life. His family, friends, patients and coworkers will remember him for his deep and enduring compassion and humor. It’s no surprise that he was beloved by all whose paths he crossed. Coworkers sometimes found it difficult to go out to lunch with him if pressed for time, because on the way he would inevitably be stopped by at least half a dozen patients or former patients passing on their greetings or asking for a quick sidewalk consult. Similarly, many family trips were delayed because Skip had stopped on the way home from work to help someone fix a flat tire or to break up a fight outside a bar. With those who knew him best, Skip was no less generous, pouring his time and energy into supporting loved ones. He particularly loved playing games with his nieces and grandkids, taking them on outings to Santa’s Village, and introducing them to the joys of music and gardening. Although Skip was agnostic, the religious among us know that he earned express entrance into the Pearly Gates; the more secular hold him dear for the radiant human achievement of having walked his talk.
Skip is survived by his wife Maureen Colton; his mother Elizabeth Atkins; his daughters Kirsten Colton and Siobhan Atkins; his niece Gabriella McIntyre; his siblings Ruth, Rick, Natasha, and David Atkins; his grandchildren Dylan and Ava Issler; and many cousins, nephews and nieces. He was the son of the late Elisha Atkins and the father of the late Elizabeth Atkins. Skip did not want any traditional services, but a memorial service will be held in the fall. For those wishing to make a donation in Skip’s memory, contributions can be sent to MGH Chelsea Healthcare Center, 151 Everett Avenue, Chelsea MA 02150.