USU Medical School Dean Eric Elster Named Distinguished Member of Excelsior Surgical Society

Dr. Eric Elster, professor and dean of the Uniformed Services University’s F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, has been named a Distinguished Member of the Excelsior Surgical Society (ESS).

A crowd of people view a presentation presented by a man at a podium. There is another man sitting at a table on the stage nearby. The event is hosted by the Excelsior Surgical Society.
USU's Dr. Eric Elster, dean of the School of Medicine, was recently named a Distinguished Member of the
Excelsior Surgical Society. (Photo credit: American College of Surgeons)

March 12, 2024 by Sarah Marshall

Dr. Eric Elster, professor and dean of the Uniformed Services University’s F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, has been named a Distinguished Member of the Excelsior Surgical Society (ESS), in recognition of his pioneering leadership and remarkable contributions to military surgical readiness.

The ESS – the military chapter of the American College of Surgeons – exists for uniformed surgeons,
providing them a voice within the largest surgical organization in the world, preserving lessons learned and improving care. Distinguished members are nominated by the Society and approved by the Excelsior Executive Council, and are physicians and scientists who have gained professional prominence by contributing to military surgical readiness. Elster joins many other Distinguished Members from the University to include Dr. Norman Rich, chair emeritus of the USU Surgery department, as well as USU President Dr. Jonathan Woodson. 

Dr. Eric Elster, dean of USU's School of Medicine. (Photo credit: Tom Balfour, USU)
Dr. Eric Elster, dean of USU's School 
of Medicine. (Photo credit: Tom 
Balfour, USU)
The Excelsior Surgical Society was originally founded as a club by renowned Army surgeons including Dr. Edward Churchill and Dr. Michael DeBakey, who wanted to establish a society for military surgeons who had served in the Mediterranean during World War II. The group is named for the Excelsior Hotel in Rome, then the headquarters for Army operations in Italy, and site of the Club’s first meeting in 1945. The original Excelsior Surgical Club held annual meetings to discuss advances in surgical research and innovation, and to form and strengthen connections in the surgical community. They also established an annual lectureship in honor of Dr. Churchill. As the founding and early members of the Club retired and eventually passed away, the Club became less active and finally ceased its annual meetings. 

During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, collaboration among military surgeons became increasingly important, and the services held regular gatherings of surgeons to support networking and idea sharing. During a conversation with former DHA Director VADM Raquel Bono, Elster, a retired Navy Captain, worked with a team to integrate the various military surgical groups and gatherings, and to re-establish the Excelsior Surgical Society. Elster became the Society’s first President, and as part of his efforts, created the Military Health Systems Strategic Partnership with the American College of Surgeons. 

In the ten years since its re-establishment, Elster explained, the Excelsior Surgical Society has become the home of military surgery, retaining the Club’s initial focus on the art and science of military surgery. It has also become both the voice of military surgeons and the focal point for membership, connection, and development in the profession, Elster added.

“It’s a privilege to be associated with the modern Excelsior Surgical Society and an honor to be connected with its legacy,” Elster said. “I’m delighted to be counted among the eminent surgeons, including Dr. Norman Rich and Dr. Jonathan Woodson, selected as Distinguished Members of the Excelsior Surgical Society, and I look forward to many more years of service to the Society and to military medicine.”