Dr. Elster received 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, he 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 and Professor of the Department of Surgery at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences & the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a department which includes 89 staff surgeons across all surgical specialties, 135 surgical residents and fellows, and supports 170 medical students per year (of which 40 last year matriculated in surgical residency programs). This robust academic department has a research portfolio across the spectrum of surgery with peer review funding from DoD and the NIH and publishes more than 250 papers per year in high-impact journals.

Dr. Elster is also the 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. He is a member of several key 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 more than120 scientific manuscripts in leading journals such as JAMA, Annals of Surgery, American Journal of Transplantation, and Science Translational Medicine, and has received numerous research grants across all aspects of surgery.


"The clinical research supported by the National Trauma Institute will ultimately save thousands of military and civilian casualties by producing the "evidence" necessary for the provision of evidence-based medicine."

Timothy C. Fabian, MD, FACS,
Head of the Department of Surgery at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, Tennessee and Chairman, National Trauma Institute