E. Christopher Ellison, MD, FACS, is the 2021–2022 president-elect of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the ACS announced on October 27th at the virtual American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress 2021. Ellison is the Robert M. Zollinger Professor of Surgery Emeritus at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, Ohio, and recently served as the George W. Paulson MD Medical Heritage Center Scholar-in-Residence for a 2-year term.
The list of Ellison’s honors, accomplishments, and titles is long and broad. Beyond his accomplishments as a surgeon and educator are strong credentials in publishing. He has served as associate editor and editorial board member of the American Journal of Surgery, is currently deputy editor of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, and has authored more than 160 peer-reviewed articles. He is principal author with Robert M. Zollinger, Jr, MD, FACS, of the 10th edition of Zollinger’s Atlas of Surgical Operations and an associate editor of Fischer’s Mastery of Surgery, 7th Edition.
COVID Not Behind Us
Asked about the COVID-19 pandemic in an interview with Medscape Medical News, Ellison commented, “While COVID is not yet fully behind us, I would say that the ACS has done an outstanding job in collaboration with the nursing, hospital, and anesthesia societies in putting together guidelines for continuing necessary surgical procedures during the pandemic.” He added, “The College stands by vaccines, and our Fellows promote and recommend them to our patients along with all the safety precautions that have been put in place.”
Ellison noted also that during his 2022–2023 term, he intends to carry forward the racial diversity initiatives inaugurated by prior ACS President J. Wayne Meredith, MD, FACS, and were carried forward by current ACS President Julie Freischlag, MD, FACS, and CEO of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. “First and foremost is that our patients come first, and they are my primary priority, as they are for the ACS. That includes setting standards for value-based care and access to care,” he said. Enhancing access, which allows for optimal care, entails promoting optimization of the medical and surgical workforce.
Surgical Workforce Lacks Diversity
“We’ve learned that patients are more likely to seek care from physicians who are like them, who speak their language and share their values. But right now, the surgical workforce is not diverse, and as a consequence, we are already facing shortages and maldistribution, with practices that are largely urban and not rural.
“I think we have an opportunity to promote expansion of our surgical workforce by enhancing the ethnic and racial diversity of our surgical pipeline. Initiatives toward this goal are fundamental to our continued success in achieving our primary mission: healing with trust,” he said.
Ellison observed that working toward diversity is a major ongoing initiative of the ACS. “It will definitely be a fundamental building block of the year that I am president, as well,” he said.
Asked about a recent report regarding gender bias in referrals to surgeons, Ellison responded, “All things being equal, I support gender equity in referrals and oppose their being made on the basis of gender.” He noted that half of the students enrolled in medical school are women and that “it’s happening in surgery, too,” referring to the fact that the proportions of men and women in surgical residencies are approaching equality.
ACS Represents All Surgical Specialties
Ellison pointed out that although it’s often been thought that the College is an organization for general surgeons, the ACS does represent all surgical specialties. “It’s very important that the house of surgery come together. The ACS strives to promote common values and the necessary changes in surgical care that strengthen our profession — across the specialties. United, we can do more.”
Freischlag confirmed the ACS’ focus on all surgical specialties and the lineage of ACS work on racial diversity that she and Ellison are committed to carrying forward since the creation of the ACS Racial Equity Task Force after the killing of George Floyd.
In an interview with Medscape, Freischlag added, “Chris Ellison has done amazing things for the American College of Surgeons, running the foundation and being involved in many committees and task forces. He is the past president of the American Surgical Association and was chair of surgery at Ohio State University for numerous years. He is really quite a leader in surgery.”
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