New ACS Foundation board members installed

Editor’s note: The Mayne Heritage Society column is replaced by “ACS Foundation Insights,” a vehicle for updates on all ACS Foundation contributions including, but not limited to, planned gift donations. The ACS Foundation’s mission is to obtain financial support for the charitable and educational work of the College, and it receives donations from Fellows, corporations, foundations and other friends through a wide range of gifts. The column will also update readers on the impact of giving, with reports on the beneficiaries of donors’ generosity.

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Board of Regents approved three new members of the ACS Foundation Board of Directors for three-year terms beginning in October 2016 at its Annual Business Meeting of Members on October 19, 2016. The new board members, all of whom bring individual philanthropic interests, are Mary O. Aaland, MD, FACS, who advocates for rural surgeons and patients; E. Christopher Ellison, MD, FACS, who urges the continued mentorship and education of young surgeons; and Colonel Kirby Gross, MD, FACS, who endorses the partnership between the ACS and the U.S. Department of Defense Military Health System.

Returning to rural roots

Dr. Aaland

Dr. Aaland

Dr. Aaland, a general and trauma surgeon, knew from childhood that trauma care is critical to life in rural America. “Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations, which I experienced firsthand as a farm girl in North Dakota. During my surgical rotation as a third-year medical student in an inner-city trauma center, I realized that rural Americans were not receiving appropriate trauma care. It was at that moment I decided that I wanted to become a trauma surgeon and help develop trauma systems outside major metropolitan areas,” Dr. Aaland said.

After graduating from medical school at the University of North Dakota (UND), Grand Forks, Dr. Aaland completed her general surgery residency rotations at Yale Affiliates Regional Surgical Residency Programs, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, and at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Peoria. She eventually returned to North Dakota for her surgical practice, where she is an advocate for meeting the increasing need for rural surgeons and systems, serving as associate professor and director of rural surgery, UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, department of surgery. In her role as director of the rural surgery support program, Dr. Aaland is working to address rural hospital challenges with surgical coverage recruitment support and continuing education offerings in surgery and trauma.* She also practices surgery in critical access hospitals across the state of North Dakota, including the cities of Devils Lake and Jamestown.

When asked what she enjoys most about being a rural surgeon, she emphasizes the thanks she receives from her patients, who appreciate the surgical care they receive without needing to travel far from home.

An ACS Fellow since 1995, Dr. Aaland serves on the ACS Board of Governors representing North Dakota and has held leadership roles in ACS chapters. She also supports the College as an ACS Foundation donor, giving back for all she has received from the organization. “Membership in the ACS has been the mainstay of my professional life, even as a nonacademic surgeon. It has given me the opportunity to have access to other members across the world and to have personal contact with key players in the world of surgery.”

Mentoring the next generation

Dr. Ellison

Dr. Ellison

When asked what brings the most satisfaction to his work day, Dr. Ellison is quick to respond that it is teaching and mentoring the next generation of surgeons. “Day to day, I am happiest when I teach a new concept to students and see the light go on in their eyes and they ‘get it,’” he said. “Likewise, the joy of working with residents over years of training and seeing them mature and develop into independent surgeons is meaningful. Teaching spreads my individual contribution to health care onto future providers, and the impact is manifold over what I could accomplish as an individual surgeon.”

Dr. Ellison, a general surgeon, is the Robert M. Zollinger Professor of Surgery, chief executive officer of faculty group practice, and senior associate vice-president for health sciences and vice-dean for clinical affairs, Wexner Medical Center, Ohio State University (OSU), Columbus. Dr. Ellison received his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and completed a general surgery residency at OSU. He has served as ACS Ohio Chapter president, ACS Governor-at-Large, and as the Chair of the ACS Advisory Council for General Surgery.

As a medical student, Dr. Ellison chose a career in general surgery because it afforded him the breadth of patient exposure that he wanted as a young surgeon. Since then, he has valued the opportunity to learn new surgical techniques and evolving treatment paradigms for many surgical diseases. With the joy of teaching such a priority for Dr. Ellison, he is the ideal choice to lead the ACS Transition to Practice Program at Wexner Medical Center. This position allows him to further expand his reach in optimal patient care by helping other surgeons develop their peak potential.

An ACS Fellow for 30 years, Dr. Ellison has found the College beneficial in developing his network of colleagues and for offering access to a variety of educational offerings. He takes pride in the FACS designation. “FACS means something special. It is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. My patients appreciate the fact the FACS stands for quality and integrity, and it gives them an added sense of confidence in the care they receive,” Dr. Ellison noted.

Giving back as a donor to the ACS Foundation also reinforces Dr. Ellison’s values: “As a not-for-profit organization, the ACS supports many meaningful projects in education leadership development, global health initiatives, transition to practice programs, and quality and safety program development. All those who are privileged to have FACS after their name should be proud to contribute to these causes through the ACS Foundation.”

Answering the call to serve

Dr. Gross

Dr. Gross

Dr. Gross answered the call to serve in the U.S. military mid-career in 2002. His initial choice of the surgical profession was significantly affected by the faculty, specifically his mentors the late Jay L. Grosfeld, MD, FACS, and James A. Madura, MD, FACS, at Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis. But the events of September 11, 2001, changed his professional direction, and he decided to use his surgical skills to care for members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Colonel Gross now serves as an officer in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. He will be assuming the role as director of the Army Trauma Training Center at the Ryder Trauma Center, University of Miami, in early 2017. He has deployed seven times to Afghanistan and Iraq, most recently returning to the U.S. in August 2014.

He has been assigned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Williams Beaumont Army Medical Center, El Paso, TX; Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC; Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD; and the Joint Trauma System at Joint Base San Antonio, TX. After two tours of duty in Iraq, he completed a trauma fellowship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN.

A Fellow since 1989, Colonel Gross has embraced his FACS status with gratitude and pride. “I viewed recognition as a Fellow of the ACS as a career milestone to confirm to myself and to surgical colleagues an attainment of professional achievement and ethics,” he said. “Mid-career, the educational benefits of Fellowship were of great value. Now, as a senior surgeon, Fellowship has provided ready access to colleagues who are subject matter experts and thought leaders on effecting change to positively impact outcomes.”

A regular and generous donor to the ACS Foundation for nearly 25 years, Colonel Gross is a strong supporter of the Military Health System Strategic Partnership ACS. This initiative, established in collaboration between the ACS and the Department of Defense military health system, will use battlefield experiences to provide better care for soldiers and civilians. Part of the partnership’s funding will come from ACS Foundation contributions.

“The ACS Foundation serves as a way for Fellows to support their organization, which has consistently and fervently advanced surgical care,” Colonel Gross said. “Even more than the personal benefits from Fellowship, such as educational offerings and career mentorship, the College effectively focuses resources to facilitate improvements in surgical care.”

For more information on the ACS Foundation, contact Shane Hollett, ACS Foundation Executive Director, at 312-202-5506 or

*Sticca R, Aaland MO. The North Dakota Rural Surgery Support Program: Providing surgical services to communities in need. Bull Am Coll Surg. Available at: Accessed November 23, 2016.

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