Newswise — Bethesda, Md. – The Uniformed Services University (USU) has established a new named chair in its Department of Surgery in honor of world renowned vascular surgeon, Dr. Norman M. Rich.

The “Norman M. Rich Chair in Surgery” honors Rich, a pioneer in vascular surgery who has made significant contributions to USU, military medicine, and surgery throughout the course of his more than 53 years as a vascular surgeon.

During the Vietnam War, as a young, newly-trained surgeon and the chief of surgery, 2nd Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) unit, Rich refined vascular surgical techniques, particularly for arteriovenous injuries to the extremity, emphasizing the importance of venous and arterial system repairs. His expertise and newly espoused techniques helped save scores of soldiers from limb amputation or death. These efforts identified Rich as a skilled and visionary surgeon. He heralded a new age in vascular injury management, with particular focus on venous reconstruction.

Rich was also the first vascular surgery fellow at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, DC, and assumed the position of chief of Vascular Surgery and director of the Vascular Fellowship program in 1967, a post he held until 1978. In 1976, he was appointed professor of Surgery in USU’s School of Medicine, and became the first chairman of the Department of Surgery in 1977. He stepped down as the founding chair of Surgery in 2002 after more than 25 years of service.

A Fellow of the American College of Surgeons since 1970, Rich received the 2003 Surgeons' Award for Service to Safety from the ACS, the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, and the National Safety Council. In 2014, he delivered the Excelsior Surgical Society/Edward D. Churchill Lecture at the ACS’ Centennial Clinical Congress. He became the first Honorary Member of the revitalized Excelsior Surgical Society at the ACS Clinical Congress in 2016. Adding to a long list of honors, Dr. Rich was recently was honored with the inaugural Distinguished Military Lifetime Achievement Award from American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Rich has earned international recognition and lectured in more than 45 countries. He has published more than 300 manuscripts and has been the author or co-author of five books, including the first edition of Vascular Trauma, written with ACS Past-President Dr. Frank C. Spencer, as well as two subsequent editions of the textbook. He has served on 10 editorial boards of clinical journals, including Cardiovascular Surgery, Journal of Trauma, Journal of Vascular Surgery, Phlebology, and Surgery. In 2009, he became the international co-editor of the Polish Journal of Surgery.

“He is exceptionally worthy of this honor for his tireless commitment and dedication to the School of Medicine and the Uniformed Services University,” said Dr. Arthur Kellermann, dean of USU’s School of Medicine.

Navy Capt. (Dr.) Eric Elster, the current USU surgery department chair, will be the inaugural Norman M. Rich Chair of Surgery.  Elster, a transplant surgeon, has worked closely with Rich for many years and is himself a leader in American surgery.  As such, said Kellermann, Elster will “stand on the shoulders of giants,” in helping to lead military surgery. 

“From this point forward, every surgeon who is given the honor of leading USU’s Department of Surgery and concurrently holding the Norman M. Rich Chair of Surgery at USU will have a direct connection to one of academic surgery’s most influential leaders in the 20th century and well into the 21st,” said Kellermann.  “On behalf of the Uniformed Services University and ‘America’s Medical School,’ I offer heartfelt thanks to Dr. Norman M. Rich for a lifetime of service to USU and our nation, and congratulations to both Dr. Rich and Capt. Elster on this distinct honor.”

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About the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences:

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, founded by an act of Congress in 1972, is the nation’s federal health sciences university and the academic heart of the Military Health System. USU students are primarily active duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Public Health Service who receive specialized education in tropical and infectious diseases, TBI and PTSD, disaster response and humanitarian assistance, global health, and acute trauma care. USU also has graduate programs in oral biology, biomedical sciences and public health committed to excellence in research. The University's research program covers a wide range of areas important to both the military and public health. For more information about USU and its programs, visit

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