‘Sunny’ La Jolla centenarian and radiology professor Elliott Lasser looks back at a life among the rays

La Jolla resident Elliott Lasser turns 100 on Nov. 30.
La Jolla resident Elliott Lasser turns 100 on Nov. 30.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

La Jolla Centenarians:

For retired radiology professor and longtime La Jollan Dr. Elliott Lasser, life is about rays — those from the sun and those forming an X-ray.

Lasser turns 100 on Wednesday, Nov. 30, and in the past century he has built a life “on the sunny side of the street,” attributing his longevity to his ability to look on the brighter side and enjoy life.

Lasser, once head of the UC San Diego School of Medicine’s radiology department, also said he has a higher concentration of heparin in his blood from childhood allergies, which he said has been shown to lengthen life spans.

He said he’s celebrating his centennial birthday all month, first with a large party in early November attended by friends and family members from all over the country and then with a celebration with radiology colleagues Nov. 20.

“Most people know I live on the sunny side of the street.”

— Dr. Elliott Lasser

Lasser grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., attended Harvard University and trained as a radiologist in the Navy.

He worked in Buffalo and Pittsburgh before heading to La Jolla to help establish UCSD’s medical school, which opened in 1968.

“That was fun,” Lasser said. “I enjoyed teaching residents.”

“I didn’t start out to be a radiologist,” he added, but originally intended to go into business, following his father, who was involved in insurance and real estate. Lasser joined the newspaper at Harvard and sold ads.

“I hated it,” he said. “I got tired of that very quickly.”

He then read a book about a “young man finishing medical school, putting on his white coat, going down to South America and helping to cure [people].”

“That’s what I wanted to do,” Lasser said. “So I got into medical school.”

Lasser has four children, “all with advanced degrees,” living in California, Colorado and Oklahoma. He also has five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

His wife of 75 years, Phyllis, was a weaver who died in 2020.

Lasser said he’s always imparted to his children and those seeking advice to explore their options. When his eldest son didn’t want to take on the demands of being a doctor but wanted to stay in the medical field, Lasser noted that hospital management is just as important.

He credits his mother with having the most impact on his life. “Mothers are always right,” he said. “We were very close.”

As a teenager, Elliott Lasser loved playing football in Buffalo, N.Y., before heading to Harvard University.
(Provided by Elliott Lasser)

He said playing football in high school and later in the Navy is among his favorite memories. He said he loved playing for his high school’s varsity team in Buffalo, where one newspaper declared “a new star is born” after his first game. “I couldn’t believe it was me!”

His only regret is not playing football for Harvard when asked, he said. He wanted instead to see what else the university had to offer.

Lasser said he wants people to know he’s “a friendly person,” and he wants to inspire people with his disposition.

“Most people know I live on the sunny side of the street,” he said.

La Jolla Centenarians is an occasional series in the La Jolla Light. If you know a La Jollan who is or is about to be at least 100 years old, email