UR’s Seymour Schwartz, Surgery Icon, Honored on National Stage

Oct. 24, 2017
photo of Seymour Schwartz sitting in a library
Seymour Schwartz, M.D.

Fifty years ago when Seymour I. Schwartz, M.D., finished writing the first-edition manuscript of a textbook that’s known as the “surgeon’s Bible,” there were no CT scans, no biomarkers, and the most common way to diagnose cancer was to open up the patient in the operating room.

Fast forward to 2017, and Schwartz’s colleagues at the University of Rochester and across the nation today are celebrating his achievements—and advances in the field—at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress in San Diego.

Schwartz, along with UR Surgery Chair David C. Linehan, M.D., will co-moderate a panel discussion on changes that have taken place since 1969, when Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery landmark book was first published by McGraw Hill.

“I thought it would be interesting to define the changes and go through the different eras,” said Schwartz, distinguished alumni professor of Surgery and chair of the UR department from 1987 to 1998. “So much has changed technically, but our focus on the patient is timeless.”

Robotic surgical devices were not available 50 years ago; people with appendicitis today can sometimes be treated with antibiotics but then, the organ was always removed. Women with breast cancer were treated with a radical mastectomy in the past, and sometimes, surgeons did not even disclose the cancer diagnosis to the patient, thinking it would be too upsetting. That belief, of course, would be scoffed at today, said Linehan, who also holds the Seymour I. Schwartz endowed Professorship in Surgery.

“All of the things that we take for granted in our practice today, these guys didn’t have 50 years ago,” Linehan said. “It’s also fun to speculate where we are headed with research.”

The ACS also will honor Schwartz as a surgery icon with a special video presentation of his life and achievements on Oct. 25. 

Schwartz, a member of the UR faculty for 60 years, has served as president of the most prestigious surgical societies in the U.S., has authored more than 250 scientific articles and several textbooks in addition to Principles of Surgery, and has received numerous other awards. He is an elected member of National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), which is one of the highest honors possible; NAM members advise the nation and international community of issues of health, medicine, and policy. 

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ACS public information officers contributed to this and will be available at the meeting for media via: