A Helping Hand

There are many different types of creative people in this world.

There are people who are defined by their mathematical or linguistic abilities. Those who are musically or artistically gifted. There are even those who excel at social or interpersonal dynamics.

And then there are those who are good at working with their hands.

While Eric George, M.D.  undoubtedly falls into multiple creative categories when it comes to his natural gifts and abilities, there is no denying that his most important contributions to the world come through the care and craftsmanship of his hands.

By trade, George is a world renowned hand surgeon based in New Orleans, Louisiana, but his abilities and reach go much further. He is also a venture capitalist. He is a real estate investor. He is an author, a philanthropist, a father and a husband. And he is a proud Son of Marshall.

George is a native of Huntington, West Virginia, and has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the world of medicine thanks to his start at Marshall University.

“People often assume that I chose Marshall University because I’m a Huntington native and my family couldn’t afford out of state tuition. But truthfully, I chose Marshall because it’s an exceptional university, academically, athletically, and in terms of campus life,” George said. “I knew Marshall would put me in a position to succeed upon graduation no matter what avenue I pursued. I also knew that Marshall would instill in me the values, loyalty, and sense of community that you only find in a small town. Everyone I had interacted with at Marshall was warm, caring, and inviting. So, I knew the school had a special community that I wanted to join.”

George received his undergraduate and medical degree from Marshall University and later completed his General Trauma Surgery Residency at Michigan State University and a Fellowship in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Grand Rapids Area Medical Education Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Subsequently, he completed an Orthopedic Hand and Upper Extremity Reconstructive Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona.

Today, George is a Professor of Hand Surgery at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and Tulane University in New Orleans. He founded two healthcare organizations based which he currently runs as CEO: the Hand Center of Louisiana, an ambulatory practice, and Omega Hospital, a specialty surgical hospital.

George works with thousands of patients each year through his practice, including working regularly with NFL and NBA athletes in the New Orleans area and other high-profile celebrities and professionals.

And it is his passion for caring for others that has helped drive his career aspirations.

“I am naturally a caregiver. I like meeting people, helping them, and caring for them. Knowing this about myself made the choice to attend medical school an easy one. And ever since I got into medical school, I’ve never doubted my decision,” George said. “Today, I see approximately 400 patients each week, and after practicing for over 26 years, I’ve met a lot of people. It’s the connection I create and sustain with my patients that keeps me invested in the work I do.”

But that is far from the end of this story.

George became interested in the business side of his profession and launched his career as an entrepreneur and investor in 2006 when he founded and became the CEO of ERG Enterprises, a venture investment firm based in New Orleans. In its early years, ERG made investments in healthcare facilities, before moving on to other projects.

“I’ve always been fascinated by business. It was an interest that differentiated me from my classmates in medical school. When I first began practicing medicine, I focused on becoming the best physician I could and trying to establish a reputation as an excellent physician. It was during that time I was fortunate in building lasting relationships with the pillars of the New Orleans community,” George said. “That provided me a springboard for launching into entrepreneurship. In 2003, I had the opportunity to buy a specialty surgical hospital with 12 other physicians. We secured financing, bought Omega Hospital, and I immediately took over as CEO. That experience taught me how to lead an organization and introduced me to important partnerships with investment bankers, lawyers, accountants, the support system needed to run a successful business.”

The Hand Center of Louisiana is the largest hand and upper extremity practice in the entire Gulf South. Omega Hospital is a specialty surgical center that serves patients across the Greater New Orleans region and Gulf South. And ERG Enterprises has grown to a company that exceeds more than $1 billion in assets. “I credit the success of each enterprise to our incredible teams and partners,” George added.

Today, ERG owns or partners in several major hotels in New Orleans and is currently involved in several real estate development projects. And it all stemmed from George’s passion for his community, vowing to help revitalize New Orleans following the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Since then, George has helped restore several structures affected by the hurricane including the famed Orpheum Theater, which was shut down and fell into a state of disrepair until his investment team helped restore the building and it reopened in 2015.

“There are many developments taking place at ERG that I’m thrilled about. For instance, we just opened a new speakeasy bar under an iconic theater we own, The Orpheum Theater. The venue is called the Double Dealer. It’s a unique, one-of-a-kind bar set in the backstage area of a 1920s vaudeville theater,” George said. “We are also involved in several recent real estate development projects. We recently acquired the historic United Fruit Company building in New Orleans, which was home to one of the most powerful organizations and CEOs of the early 20th century. United Fruit Company became what is known today as Chiquita Banana. The building was United Fruit’s global headquarters. It’s approximately 100,000 square feet and located in Downtown New Orleans on historic Saint Charles Avenue. The building brings a rich history filled with cultural significance, which is one of the reasons we bought it and are working to restore it.”

Through his work renovating the United Fruit Company property and other historic landmarks, George and ERG Enterprises are being featured in an upcoming public television documentary about his endeavors. It represents just one of several national media appearances George is making this year.

In addition to his work in real estate, George and ERG are also branching out into other areas across many different arenas – from education to medicine to bourbon.

“Our team at ERG is also excited about several post-startup companies that we have invested in, which are improving the human condition on a global scale,” George said. “One company, Diathrive, is transforming how testing supplies are funded and supplied to patients with diabetes, fundamentally improving the challenges of living with that condition. Another company, Modern Teacher, is transforming the US public education system to provide students with better learning through smarter use of technology. Pharmajet, a medical device maker, is eradicating polio worldwide by pioneering needleless technology for administering vaccinations.

“We have other exciting investments as well. Black Feather is one example. It’s a bourbon company that was founded by Jeremy Rawle and Travis Pastrana. We also either own or have partnered in the acquisition of six major hotels in New Orleans. I’m excited about all of these developments, and I credit our team for making them happen.”

Away from his professional life, George takes pride in his ability to give back through several philanthropic endeavors with the help of his family. He established the Colonel Aaron C-Dot George Scholarship at Marshall University in honor of his brother who was killed in a training accident as a test fighter pilot. That scholarship provides financial support to full-time undergraduates who are Yeager Scholars. He also supports the George Family Scholarship Fund at New York University Law School offering full tuition to NYU law students who are the first in their immediate families to go to college.

The family is also the benefactor of the St. Martin’s Episcopal School George Cottage in New Orleans and a school for orphans in Mombasa, Kenya.

“Giving is such an important practice. Collectively, my wife, Kim, and daughters, Chloe and Cassidy, have made it a priority,” George added.

Recently, George wrote his first book based on his life experiences called We: Ditch the Me Mindset and Change the World highlighting his personal and professional philosophy which he attributes to his success in medicine, entrepreneurship, and life in general.

Through the many endeavors George has taken on in his professional and personal life, he attributes the skills and values instilled in him at Marshall as the launch pad for many of his achievements. A 2014 recipient of Marshall’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, George still revels in the opportunity to talk to others about his experiences in Huntington and how they have helped shape who he is today.

“It provided me the foundational knowledge, life skills, and connections to become successful in medicine and really jumpstart my career,” George said. “I can think of numerous opportunities, life-changing ones, where my connection to Marshall helped me capitalize on them and advance my career as a result. For instance, graduating medical school and getting into my residency program. And the strength of Marshall’s alumni organization has been invaluable.”