Retired U.S. Army Colonel Norman M. Rich, MD, FACS, DMCC, MC, received the first American College of Surgeons Distinguished Military Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the Clinical Congress 2019 Convocation, October 27 in San Francisco, CA. This award recognizes Dr. Rich’s “outstanding contributions to surgery during military service and as a pioneer of modern vascular surgery.” According to the award citation, his “expertise has brought vascular injury management into a new age, particularly with arteriovenous injuries to the extremity that spared many soldiers from limb amputation or death.” Military and civilian patients have benefitted from the Vietnam Vascular Registry he created in 1966, which contains data on more than 10,000 reported cases treated by surgeons involved in vascular trauma during wars or conflicts.
Dr. Rich has trained literally an army of top-quality military and civilian surgeons. It is for all these reasons, along with his many years of active duty military service in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, that the College’s Honors Committee recognized him with this honor.
Born in Ray, AZ, January 13, 1934, Dr. Rich attended the University of Arizona, Tucson, before transferring to Stanford University, CA, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1956 and a medical degree in 1960. He completed a rotating internship at the U.S. Army Tripler General Hospital (now known as Tripler Army Medical Center) in Honolulu, HI, and a general surgery residency at Letterman General Hospital (now Letterman Army Hospital), San Francisco, CA. He was assigned to the Second Surgical Hospital as chief of surgery, first at Fort Bragg, NC, in 1965 and later in An Khe in the Republic of Vietnam (1965–1966).
As a young, newly trained surgeon and the chief of surgery, 2nd Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit during the Vietnam War, Dr. Rich refined vascular surgical techniques, particularly for arteriovenous injuries to the extremity, emphasizing the importance of venous and arterial system repairs. His expertise and newly espoused techniques helped save scores of soldiers from limb amputation or death, and has led him to be known as the surgeon who heralded a new age in vascular injury management, with particular focus on venous reconstruction.
He was the first vascular surgery fellow at Walter Reed General Hospital (1966–1967), Washington, DC, and assumed the position of chief of vascular surgery and director of the vascular fellowship program in 1967, a post he held until 1978.
His initial academic appointment was as associate professor, George Washington University, Washington, DC (1973–1978). He was appointed professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) School of Medicine in 1976, and became the first chairman of the department of surgery in 1977. At the time of his retirement from active duty in 1980, he made a second commitment to serve as chairman. He served as chief, division of vascular surgery (1977–1999), and director of the Vietnam Vascular Registry. He was the academic advisor to the department of surgery, and co-directed the vascular fellowship program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 1978 onward, and became emeritus in 1993. He was appointed professor of military medicine in 1983. He became the Leonard Heaton and David Packard Professor in 1999—a post named for two USUHS founders. He stepped down as the founding chairman of surgery in October 13, 2002, after more than 25 years of service, and USUHS announced the establishment of the Norman M. Rich Department of Surgery. When his successor, 1982 USUHS graduate Colonel David Burris, MD, FACS, deployed to Iraq in 2003, Dr. Rich stepped in as acting chairman. With the untimely death of Colonel Burris in August 2010, Dr. Rich continued to serve as interim chair, with Captain Patricia L. McKay, MD, FACS, as deputy chairman. He served as senior advisor to the third Uniformed Services University (USU) chair of surgery, Captain Eric A. Elster, MD, FACS, working with him and David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, ACS Executive Director, in the early development of the Military Health System Strategic Partnership ACS.
At USUHS (now known as USU), he was named the Outstanding Civilian Educator (1983−1984), and was awarded the Exceptional Service Medal (1989), the Outstanding Service Medal (2000), the USU Medal (2001), and the Carol Johns Medal as the Outstanding Faculty Member (2003). He also is a founder of USU Surgical Associates.
Dr. Rich has earned international recognition and lectured in more than 45 countries. He has published more than 300 manuscripts and has been the author or co-author of five books, including the first edition of Vascular Trauma, written with ACS Past-President Frank C. Spencer, MD, FACS, as well as two subsequent editions of the textbook. He has served on 10 editorial boards of clinical journals, including Cardiovascular Surgery, Journal of Trauma, Journal of Vascular Surgery, Phlebology, and Surgery. In 2009, he became the international co-editor of the Polish Journal of Surgery.
During the Vietnam War…his expertise and newly espoused techniques helped save scores of soldiers from limb amputation or death, and has led him to be known as the surgeon who heralded a new age in vascular injury management, with particular focus on venous reconstruction.
A Fellow of the ACS since 1970, Dr. Rich served on the College’s Board of Governors (1983−1989), Committee on Chapter Relations (1985−1989), Committee on Trauma (1980−1995), International Relations Committee (1976−1986), and Surgical History Group Executive Committee (2017−2018). He became an Instructor for the ACS Advanced Trauma Life Support® course in 1980 and received the 2003 Surgeons’ Award for Service to Safety from the ACS, the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma (AAST), and the National Safety Council. In 2014, he delivered the Excelsior Surgical Society/Edward D. Churchill Lecture at the centennial Clinical Congress and received the First Distinguished Organization Award from the ACS Foundation in 2015 for the Norman M. Rich Department of Surgery’s efforts to establish the USU Surgical Associates’ Military Professor of Surgery Fund at the ACS. He became the first Honorary Member of the revitalized Excelsior Surgical Society at Clinical Congress 2016.
Dr. Rich is a member of the American Surgical Association, AAST, American Venous Forum, Association for Academic Surgery, Chesapeake Vascular Society, College of Physicians of Philadelphia (Hon), Eastern Vascular Society, Halsted Society, International Society for Cardiovascular Surgery, International Society for Vascular Surgery, Phoenix Surgical Society (Hon), Society of University Surgeons, Société Internationale de Chirurgie, Society for Vascular Surgery (distinguished member, 2003), Southern Association for Vascular Surgery, and Southern Surgical Association. He has served as President of the North American Chapter of the International Society for Cardiovascular Surgery (now combined with the Society for Vascular Surgery), the American Venous Forum, the Eastern Vascular Society, the Chesapeake Vascular Society, the Southern Association for Vascular Surgery, and the USU Surgical Associates.
He is a member or honorary member in many international surgical societies, holds honorary degrees from several international universities, and is an Examiner for the Apothecaries of London, U.K. His military awards include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Meritorious Service Award. He received the Médaille D’Honneur from France in 1991. In 1999, he received the J. E. Wallace Sterling Lifetime Alumni Achievement Award from the Stanford Medical Alumni Association. Dr. Rich has received a number of other distinguished honorifics from international and North American surgical societies and is a recipient of the Frank Berry Prize in Federal Health Care. In 2010, the Peripheral Vascular Surgery Society established The Norman M. Rich Lecture in Vascular Trauma.