Son of Community College president dies after six-year battle with ALS

Dr. Robert James ‘Bobby’ Ross, center, celebrates with his parents, Dr. Jim Ross and Mrs. Pam Ross, at the May 2016 Doctor of Medicine commencement ceremony at Yale University.

Dr. Robert James “Bobby” Ross, MD, PhD, son of Pamlico Community College President Dr. Jim Ross and his wife, Mrs. Pam Ross, died Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, at his parents’ home after a courageous six-year battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. He was 38.

Dr. Bobby Ross passed away peacefully with his parents in prayer by his side. He had most recently lived in New Haven, Conn., before moving eight months ago to be with his parents and extended family in North Carolina.

Dr. Bobby Ross earned his MD with honors in 2016 at Yale University after earning his PhD with honors in 2014 from Yale. He was one of 10 students from around the world selected by Yale in 2006 to receive a full-tuition scholarship based on merit to earn both the MD and PhD degrees over an eight-year period. After earning both degrees, he was a resident physician in psychiatry at Yale until 2019 when the effects of ALS prevented him from continuing the work he loved so much. He specialized in serving military veterans during his service as a physician at Yale.

In his final months, Dr. Bobby Ross was able only to move his eyes, but his mind was as alert as ever. Through an assistive device that allowed him to communicate using eye movement, the younger Dr. Ross was able to engage in many deep conversations with his father, his mother, and others on many topics, including medicine, politics, higher education, sports, and his faith.

“The fact that Bobby contracted ALS, suffered tremendously from it, and died from it should not overshadow the unique brightness of his overall life,” said his father. “Bobby had a life filled with astonishing achievements, great overall happiness, and abundant joy he spread wherever he went.  Most importantly, wherever he went and whatever he did, he made lives better.”

“As his father, I saw Bobby develop a deep faith and I believe that the most important essence of Bobby that brought such an incredible legacy of making lives better is that he consistently followed the teachings of Jesus Christ in caring more about others rather than himself. I saw this consistently as he worked to help others throughout his life and the good this brought about.”

“When Bobby earned his PhD from Yale, I was so proud for his academic achievements but something else made me just as proud,” said his father. “Nearly every fellow student in his lab came up to me that day and revealed how Bobby had voluntarily helped them when they desperately needed academic help, encouragement, and friendship. Several said they might not have made it that far, or even dropped out, without Bobby’s help for them.”

“When Bobby earned his MD, Pam and I were so proud that he bravely did so while fighting the effects of ALS. After he then became a Yale resident physician in psychiatry, we were so proud of the love he showed and care he provided military veterans, which he specialized in. He did so as the horrible disease continued to profoundly devastate all his physical capabilities. Bobby earned a prestigious Yale award that year for outstanding clinical care of patients because of his inspired, loving, and effective work with veterans.

Dr. Jim Ross praised his wife Pam, who led the caregiving efforts for Bobby right up until the end. “Pam was like an angel on earth as she displayed amazing strength, courage, and love for our beloved son throughout Bobby’s battle for life.”    

Because the younger Dr. Ross spent most of his adult life in Connecticut, there will not be any local viewing, funeral service or receiving of friends. The family requests no flowers or gifts, but welcomes emails to and greeting cards, which can be sent to the family via the college’s address, P.O. Box 185, Grantsboro, NC 28529.

Dr. and Mrs. Jim Ross wish to thank from the bottom of their hearts everyone in Pamlico County and elsewhere for their prayers on behalf of their son and their entire family, which they credit with giving them strength and comfort throughout the horrific medical ordeal their son Bobby went through.