Capt. Eric A. Elster, MD ’95 


Charles Lockwood, MD, Senior Vice President of USF Health and Dean of the Morsani College of Medicine (left); and Aman Bhullar, MD '07 (right) presented the 2015 Distinguished Physician Alumnus Award to Capt. Eric Elster, M.D. ’95, Professor and Chairman at Norman M. Rich Department of Surgery, Uniformed Services University.


The University of South Florida Health Morsani College of Medicine Alumni Society proudly presented the 2015 Distinguished Physician Alumnus Award to Captain Eric A. Elster, MD, ’95 at the 2015 Commencement Dinner on April 16. He received a standing ovation as he walked up to accept the award which was presented by Charles Lockwood, MD, Senior Vice President of USF Health and Dean of the Morsani College of Medicine and Aman Bhullar, MD ’07, Chair of the Awards & Recognition Committee and Director on the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Alumni Board

Dr. Bhullar commented on Dr. Elster’s career noting that he received both his undergraduate and medical school degrees from the University of South Florida in Tampa as a recipient of the U.S. Navy’s Health Professionals Scholarship Program. Upon graduation, Dr. Elster completed a general surgery residency at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Dr. Elster served as ship’s surgeon aboard the USS Kitty Hawk while stationed in the Persian Gulf. Upon returning, Dr. Elster completed a solid organ transplantation fellowship at the National Institutes of Health and then was 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.

Capt. Elster now serves as the 3rd Chairman of the Norman M. Rich Department of Surgery at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences as well as a Professor of Surgery and Director of the Surgical Critical Care Initiative, a joint military and civilian program developing clinical decision support tools for critically ill patients. Dr. Elster was last deployed as a surgeon and Director of Surgical Services at the NATO Role 3 Military Medical Unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Dr. Elster is a member of numerous organizations including a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Society of University Surgeons, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, the Southern Surgical Association, the Halsted Society and the American Surgical Association. Dr. Elster and has published over 100 scientific manuscripts and received numerous research grants across all aspects of surgery.

Dr. Elster expressed how honored he felt to be recognized with this award and commented on how much he enjoyed returning to USF. He mentioned having the chance to interact with the medical students in the Medicine in the Armed Forces Interest Group and the Surgical Interest Group the previous evening, after his presentation Plotting the Course: A Captain’s Log. He remarked that during the Q & A session, when asked if USF had prepared him for his career, his reply was, "Absolutely!" He also remarked on the great leader we have in Charles Lockwood, MD, Dean of the Morsani College of Medicine. 

We are grateful to Dr. Elster for making the time to pass on his knowledge to our students and allowing them the opportunity to learn about pursuing a career in military medicine and surgery. Capt. Elster also participated as an Alumni Marshal at the Class of 2015 Morsani College of Medicine Commencement Ceremony and performed the Military Promotion Ceremony for three of our military graduates: Amy Jiang, US Air Force; Nelsi Mora, US Air Force, and Grant Sizemore, US Army.

Many thanks to the Awards & Recognition Committee which is chaired by Aman Bhullar, MD ’07 and comprised of previous Distinguished Physician Alumnus Award recipients: Patricia Barry, MD ’75; George Bisset, MD ’75; Michael Flannery, MD ’88; Eduardo Gonzalez, MD ’91; and Paul Wallach, MD ’84 for their participation. 

Nominations are being accepted for the 2016 Distinguished Physician Alumnus.  To submit a nomination for this award - click here

For a list of previous recipients - click here