Newswise — Bethesda, Md. -- Navy Capt. (Dr.) Eric Elster, the Chair and Norman M. Rich Professor of Surgery for the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) Department of Surgery, has been named as the new Dean of the Hébert School of Medicine at USU, following a lengthy national search. Elster will be responsible for the undergraduate medical education of more than 680 uniformed medical students and more than 340 military and civilian graduate students each year. He succeeds Dr. Arthur Kellermann, who left last year to become senior vice president of the Health Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University and CEO of the VCU Health System.

"The search committee was extremely thorough in its efforts to find the best candidate to lead the School of Medicine, and Dr. Elster rose to the top of a very competitive field," said Richard W. Thomas, M.D., USU President.

"In addition to being one of the nation’s leading experts in transplant surgery, Dr. Elster is a recognized expert in military medicine. His vast experience will be invaluable to the future of the Hébert School of Medicine, and to USU, and we are very pleased that he will be taking on this important leadership position," said Thomas.

“I am humbled and honored to have been selected as the next dean of our military’s medical school,” Elster said. “The school’s mission of educating students who care for those who go in harm's way is my priority and our guide. I look forward to working with the faculty and the medical and graduate students at USU and across the DoD to advance that mission and the core elements of the School of Medicine: education, research and world class patient care.”

Dr. Elster’s distinguished career is anchored in academic medicine and translational research. 

He earned his undergraduate and medical school degrees from the University of South Florida in Tampa as a recipient of the U.S. Navy’s Health Professions Scholarship Program. Dr. Elster completed a general surgery residency at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, he served as ship’s surgeon aboard the USS Kitty Hawk while stationed in the Persian Gulf.  Following deployment, Dr. Elster completed a solid organ transplantation fellowship at the National Institutes of Health and was later stationed at the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Md., where he directed a translational research program focused on the development of improved diagnostics and therapies for serious traumatic injuries, transplantation and advanced operative imaging. He was last deployed as a surgeon and director of Surgical Services at the NATO Role 3 Military Medical Unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan. 

Dr. Elster currently serves as the third Chair of the USU Department of Surgery and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a department that includes 89 staff surgeons across all surgical specialties, 135 surgical residents and fellows, and supports 170 medical students per year. He oversees a robust department research portfolio across the spectrum of surgery with peer review funding from the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health, and that publishes more than 250 papers per year in high-impact journals. Dr. Elster is also the director of the Surgical Critical Care Initiative, a joint military and civilian program that develops clinical decision support tools for critically ill patients. 

Dr. Elster is a member of several key organizations including a fellow of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), Society of University Surgeons, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, the Southern Surgical Association, the Halsted Society and the American Surgical Association.He was inducted as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in the United Kingdom. Dr. Elster is the co-chair of the strategic partnership between the Military and the ACS, the Military Health System Strategic Partnership American College of Surgeons, focused on advancing a shared ethos, and was the inaugural President of the ACS Excelsior Society. Dr. Elster has published more than 150 scientific manuscripts in leading journals such as JAMA, Annals of Surgery, American Journal of Transplantation, and Science Translational Medicine, and has received numerous research grants across all aspects of surgery.


The F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine was established by Congress in 1972 to provide a cadre of career military physicians and leaders for the Uniformed Services. Medical students are 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 in addition to their regular medical school curriculum. A large percentage of the university’s more than 5,000 physician alumni are supporting operations around the world, offering their leadership and expertise. The F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine also has graduate programs in biomedical sciences and public health, most open to civilian and military applicants, and a robust research program that covers a wide range of areas important to both the military and public health. For more information about USU and its programs, visit