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Our top priority is providing value to members. Your Member Services team is here to ensure you maximize your ACS member benefits, participate in College activities, and engage with your ACS colleagues. It's all here.

Become a Member
Become a member and receive career-enhancing benefits

Our top priority is providing value to members. Your Member Services team is here to ensure you maximize your ACS member benefits, participate in College activities, and engage with your ACS colleagues. It's all here.

Membership Benefits

Distinguished Philanthropist Award Recipients Are Doers and Donors

Tony Peregrin

September 11, 2023

Distinguished Philanthropist Award Recipients Are Doers and Donors

The ACS Foundation has a singular mission—to raise money for surgical research, scholarships, fellowships, and philanthropic programs that, by extension, benefit surgical patients around the world. 

Since 1989, the ACS Foundation has recognized individuals for their exemplary investment in the mission of the College with the Distinguished Philanthropist Award—the Foundation’s highest and most significant honor. 

This year, two ACS Fellows will be presented with the Distinguished Philanthropist Award at Clinical Congress in Boston, Massachusetts: Retired Colonel Kirby Gross, MD, FACS, the 2023 recipient; and Kenneth W. Sharp, MD, FACS, the 2022 recipient. (Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sharp is being recognized at this year’s annual meeting). 

“The Distinguished Philanthropist Award recipients serve as an inspiration for all donors and motivate others to support the Foundation,” said Beth White Carona, CFRE, Director of the ACS Foundation. “The recipients embody the true spirit of giving selflessly and impact the College in a meaningful and lasting way through their philanthropy.” 

In the past 10 years, Distinguished Philanthropist Award recipients—along with thousands of other philanthropic Fellows and friends of the College—have contributed more than $23 million, supporting ACS initiatives, including scholarships and fellowships, awards promoting surgical and outcomes research, and lifelong learning. 

The ACS Foundation Board of Directors identifies and selects nominees for the award. The nomination criteria are:

  • A record of service to the College and the Foundation
  • A leadership commitment to the practice of philanthropy
  • A personal history of philanthropy to the College
  • Service to the larger not-for-profit community

Both the 2022 and 2023 Distinguished Philanthropist Award recipients will be recognized at the Donor Recognition and Scholars and Travelers Luncheon on Monday, October 23, during Clinical Congress.


Dr. Kenneth Sharp

Dr. Sharp’s Passion for Giving Inspires Others

Dr. Sharp is currently the Regental Liaison to the ACS Foundation Board after having served for 9 years on the Foundation Board as a Director. Working closely with Foundation leadership, Dr. Sharp has enhanced visibility of the Chapter Programs Fund and has assisted several ACS chapters to start their own fund, including his home chapter in Tennessee. 

“Quite frankly, I feel good when I give,” admitted Dr. Sharp, when asked what inspires him to be a long-time supporter of the ACS Foundation. “The ACS has given me an extraordinary amount of support in my career. So much of the satisfaction I’ve had in dealing with organized medicine and surgery has centered on the efforts of the College to represent me on Capitol Hill, teach me new skills, and help me learn how to teach my students and residents. And, it has helped me improve the care of surgical patients.”

A highly respected surgical educator and mentor, Dr. Sharp is a professor of surgery and vice-chair of the Department of Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Since becoming an ACS Fellow in 1987, Dr. Sharp has served in various leadership roles for the College. He has been a Regent since 2018, participating in the regental Bylaws, Anti-Racism, and Member Services Liaison Committees. He previously was a Governor (2000–2006), and currently serves on the Clinical Congress Program Committee. At the local level, Dr. Sharp is a Past-President for the ACS Tennessee Chapter.

Earlier this year, Dr. Sharp was named president of the Southern Surgical Association (SSA), an organization that is noted for its wide dissemination of innovative research. Each spring, articles developed by the SSA are featured in a special issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. 

Beyond his extensive leadership roles, Dr. Sharp also is known for his ability to inspire surgical peers to support the ACS Foundation. He often represents the ACS Foundation at regional surgical meetings, such as the ACS Leadership & Advocacy Summit.

In fact, Dr. Sharp’s talent for motivating others to engage with the ACS Foundation is one of the reasons he was selected as the 2022 Distinguished Philanthropist. 

“I’ve given a good amount of money, but I am by no means a huge donor,” said Dr. Sharp. “I received this Distinguished Philanthropist Award because I have given a respectable amount of money, but I’ve also stimulated a lot more donations from others.”


Retired Colonel Kirby Gross

Heeding the Call of Duty and Philanthropy

For more than 25 years, Colonel Gross has been a consistent and generous donor to the ACS Foundation, an endeavor partially inspired by the other Distinguished Philanthropist Awardee honored at this year’s Clinical Congress—Dr. Sharp. 

“Kirby was one of my trainees 20 years ago at Vanderbilt University Medical Center,” recalled Dr. Sharp. “I did very little hands-on training with him, but I was one of the professors there, and he knew who I was. What is particularly interesting is that probably 10 years or so ago, after he finished his training, Kirby came back to Vanderbilt to visit, and he had a cup of coffee with me. We talked about the ACS Foundation. I remember him saying that the College had been a really important part of his career—so he started giving, and I will tell you, he gave generously.”

Colonel Gross is the first active-duty member of the military to serve on the ACS Foundation Board, which he said gave him the opportunity to encourage fellow military colleagues to acknowledge the value of the College. 

“It is an honor for me to be recognized in the same year as Dr. Ken Sharp, who was one of my mentors and is now a colleague,” said Colonel Gross. “It has been particularly interesting to learn how he views the importance of his relationship with the College; I’ve learned much from him.”

Colonel Gross answered the call to serve in the US Army at the age of 48, when he was inspired to leave a successful general surgery practice after the 9/11 attacks to care for members of the US Armed Forces. 

More than 20 years later, Colonel Gross remained on active duty, deploying 10 times with special forces and conventional units in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars—making him one of the most deployed military surgeons in US history before he retired earlier this year. 

“Keep in mind that I might be changing roles, but I’m not changing my mission,” said Colonel Gross, an attending surgeon and educator with the Army Military-Civilian Trauma Team Training Program at Cooper University Health Care in Camden, New Jersey. This program provides opportunities for US Army medical providers to work in trauma centers with more emergency care patients than are typically seen in Army hospitals, allowing military medical professionals to maintain their skills in support of military medical readiness. 

Colonel Gross is a strong supporter of the Military Health System Strategic Partnership ACS, which is partially funded by the ACS Foundation. This program is a collaboration between the ACS and the Department of Defense Military Health System and uses battlefield experiences to provide better care for soldiers and civilians. 

A Fellow since 1989, Colonel Gross has been a dedicated member of the Excelsior Surgical Society (ESS), which became a formal society within the ACS in 2014, serving as its treasurer and in other leadership roles. And, while his term ended as a member of the Foundation Board after serving for 6 years, Colonel Gross will continue to help the ACS Foundation secure funding for the ESS in retirement. 

There are a few perks for retired military leaders—chief among them for Colonel Gross is the freedom to engage in advocacy work on behalf of military surgeons and their patients.

“One of the interesting things as a uniformed service member—we are limited in terms of the advocacy we can conduct, which certainly makes sense, but now that I’m no longer in uniform, I’ll have a chance to more vigorously advocate for the Excelsior Surgical Society,” he said. 


Dr. Julie Freischlag

Dr. Freischlag’s Investment in the Future

Distinguished Philanthropists Awardees, such as Dr. Sharp and Colonel Gross, demonstrate a notable level of engagement with the ACS Foundation, but supporting the College comes in many forms that often highlight a donor’s personal values and areas of interest.

“My husband and I decided to give a large gift to the Foundation because the American College of Surgeons has made my career,” said Julie A. Freischlag, MD, FACS, ACS Past-President (2021–2022), and an esteemed vascular surgeon. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t get the support from the College, and from all the surgeons I’ve met, especially women surgeons back when I started to train. And after we made our gift, it made us feel so great that it hopefully can help someone else have a wonderful career, because they were a member of the American College of Surgeons.”

Dr. Freischlag selected the ACS Foundation’s Greatest Needs Fund as the recipient of her gift.

“With a contribution to the Greatest Needs Fund, you give the College the ability to direct the funds where they can have the most impact and support a diverse and wide range of projects,” explained Carona. “In line with the College’s commitment to education, $200,000 of the amount raised through the Greatest Needs Fund is allocated to scholarships on an annual basis.” 

A Fellow of the College since 1991, Dr. Freischlag is chief executive officer of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, chief academic officer and executive vice-president of Advocate Health, executive vice-president for health affairs at Wake Forest University, and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine. 

To learn more about the ACS Foundation, its programs, and how to contribute, visit facs.org/acsfoundation. You also can visit Foundation staff during Clinical Congress 2023 at their booth near registration at the Boston Convention & Exposition Center. 

Tony Peregrin is the Managing Editor of Special Projects in the ACS Division of Integrated Communications in Chicago, IL.