E. Christopher Ellison, MD, FACS named president-elect of the American College of Surgeons

Being a surgeon is one of the most demanding jobs in medicine. It takes nearly a decade of education and practical training, as well as the dedication and resilience to thrive off the pressure of the difficult, life-changing work.

One person who is more than up for the challenge is E. Christopher Ellison, MD, FACS, Robert M. Zollinger Professor of Surgery Emeritus at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. Ellison served as chair of the Department of Surgery from 2000 to 2013, president and CEO of The Ohio State University Physicians Practice Plan from 2013 to 2017 and interim dean of The Ohio State College of Medicine from 2014 to 2016.

Dr. Ellison was recently named president-elect of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). He says that as president, he will prioritize setting standards for value-based care, access to care and promoting optimization of the medical and surgical workforce, and that he will continue ACS’s work to increase diversity in the field.

"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,” says Dr. Ellison. “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.”

He believes there is an opportunity to promote expansion of the surgical workforce by enhancing the ethnic and racial diversity of the surgical pipeline. He adds that the ACS is committed to this goal and to addressing the impending shortage of surgeons by exploring ways to adjust surgical training to meet workforce needs.

The ACS created an online COVID-19 Resource Center for the surgical community facing the impact of the pandemic. ACS leadership, in collaboration with the nursing, hospital, and anesthesia societies, helped put together guidelines and best practices to continue necessary surgical procedures during COVID-19 to ensure patient safety.

Carol R. Bradford, MD, FACS, dean of The Ohio State College of Medicine and vice president for Health Sciences at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says leadership and fellow physicians and surgeons across the country are proud of Dr. Ellison’s tireless work and the honor it brings to the college.

“His selection to serve in this extremely prestigious role is richly deserved,” says Bradford. “He continues to be a fierce advocate for robust surgical education, as well diversity and equity in the surgical workforce.”

Dr. Ellison's numerous honors, accomplishments, and titles in surgery and education include strong credentials in publishing. He has served as associate editor and editorial board member of The American Journal of Surgery, and he currently serves as deputy editor of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. He has authored more than 160 peer-reviewed articles and is principal author with Robert M. Zollinger, Jr, MD, FACS, of the soon-to-be-published 11th edition of Zollinger's Atlas of Surgical Operations. He is also co-author of The Coming Shortage of Surgeons.

Dr. Ellison and Xiaodong (Phoenix) Chen, PhD, MS, assistant professor of surgery at The Ohio State College of Medicine, have launched Ohio State’s Department of Surgery OR Coaching Project. This program provides residents timely review of specific surgical skills and constructive ideas for improvement, ultimately accelerating resident preparedness for independent surgery. Coaches are dedicated observers who are able to focus exclusively on the resident during surgery, observing even small issues such as how lights are set or how the resident moves and adjusts during the procedure. This kind of specific feedback enhances comments from the attending, who is responsible for all aspects of the operation and cannot afford such exclusive focus on the resident.

The Ohio State University Emeritus Academy funded the project that provided ongoing monitoring of each resident’s surgical skills and multisource, multifaceted, procedure-specific feedback for chief residents. Dr. Ellison initially served as the only coach, but he and Dr. Chen have trained four additional coaches who actively participate in the program. After the operation, the attending, the resident and the coach each fill out the same validated Surgical Entrustable Professional Activities evaluation form and share them with the resident.

Residents have noted how the program has helped them understand the positive impact of even small procedural changes and helped them correct potentially negative habits before they become ingrained.

Dr. Ellison says that he is “looking forward to the opportunity to work with the ACS on behalf of our patients and the profession of surgery in general.”