Wareham was born in Texas to farming parents Dayton Wareham (1892-1972) and Goldie nee Baldwin (1890-1975), and grew up in Alberta, Canada. He was a Seventh-day Adventist and a World War II navy veteran. Wareham retired as a cardiothoracic surgeon at the age of 74 but continued to associate himself with training residents at the Loma Linda University until the age of 95, during which time he drove 60 miles (100 km) to assist in operations. He was one of the earliest practitioners of open heart surgery, soon after the first such procedure was performed. Leonard Bailey, the surgeon who transplanted a baboon heart into a baby at Loma Linda University in 1984, trained under Wareham as a medical student in the late 1960s. The child, Baby Fae, was born prematurely with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and Bailey’s surgery made international headlines.
Loma Linda, Wareham's home town has been described as USA's only Blue Zone, an area where the longevity is appreciably higher than the national average and one of the four places in the world to have a substantial proportion of humans live past 100 years. The city has strict controls on the sale of alcohol, has a ban on smoking, and its largest supermarket does not sell meat. Wareham attributes his longevity to having adopted a vegan plant based diet about fifty years ago. Wareham's video "Dr. Ellsworth Wareham's Secret for Staying Young" has been featured on AOL, and tv.com. Wareham appears in How to Live Forever, a documentary film about longevity. He has also presented talks on preventative medicine and what he believes constitutes a long healthful life.
Wareham co-founded the Loma Linda University Overseas Heart Surgery Team which traveled the world performing open heart surgeries on adults and children in underdeveloped countries or those without cardiac surgery hospitals. One such trip was cut short when Saigon, South Vietnam fell in April 1975. Knowing the capture of Saigon by the People's Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam was imminent, Wareham sent the rest of the team home to the United States while he remained behind to provide post-operative care to those who had just been operated upon. He escaped days before the final air evacuation of the U.S. Embassy. Wareham is believed to have performed the first open heart surgery in Pakistan in the early 1960s when he headed a good will mission sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The charitable efforts of his team garnered praise from two U.S. Presidents (Johnson and Nixon), as well as the King of Greece and Saudi Arabian Royalty.
Wareham died at home In Loma Linda, California on December 15, 2018 with his wife, Barbara, and his daughter, Dr. Julie Wareham-Yegge at his side who described him as lucid and cognitive until his death. He is survived by his wife, Barbara; his children: Martin E. Wareham, M.D.; Robert B. Wareham, Esq.; Julie G. Wareham-Yegge, M.D.; and John Richard Wareham. His youngest child, Brian Scott Wareham, died in 2015. Wareham was also survived by eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
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