The surgical world and medical communities across the country are mourning the loss of Dr. Seymour Schwartz. He passed away at the age of 92 in his son’s home on August 28, 2020. His many contributions to the medical field are innumerable, and he will be remembered as one of the most accomplished surgeons in American history.
Neal Simon, President of AUA stated, “On an Educational level Dr. Schwartz’s importance to AUA cannot be overstated. He was one of the pillars upon which our educational program and its goal of bringing diversity to the medical profession stands. AUA is dedicated to building on the foundation that Dr. Schwartz was so instrumental in establishing. On a personal level, those of us who knew him will miss his wisdom, his charm, his kindness and most of all his friendship.”
Dr. Seymour Schwartz was born in January 1928 to Samuel and Martha Schwartz. Samuel was also a physician with a small private practice. Fortunately, his parents impressed upon him the value of intellect and education – he was influenced by many well-educated people from a young age and was always surrounded by books. Even from a young age, he took this information to heart and began earning accolades all throughout grade school and high school. In college, he began writing papers and attended his surgical residency at the University of Rochester beginning in 1950. This training led to a long and storied career in the field of surgery.
In 1969, he authored “Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery”, which has become the de facto standard for surgical textbooks in medical schools across the country. His textbook has been reprinted more than 10 times, translated into nine languages, and reached the #1 spot on Amazon’s best seller list for Laparoscopic and Robotic surgery books.
He also went on to author several other surgical textbooks and journals, including two editions of Abdominal Operations, Surgical Diseases of the Liver, Atlas of Hepatic Tumors and Focal Lesions, and Surgical Reflections. His expertise also helped shape other professional medical content in his service as Editor-in-Chief of Contemporary Surgery, Yearbook of Surgery, and Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
His contributions to principles and procedures in the surgical field earned him many accolades, including numerous departmental and leadership awards from surgical departments and surgical societies around the world. Most notably, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the American College of Surgeons, the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Rochester, and the Medal of Honor from King Juan Carlos of Spain.
Non-Surgical Interest and Accomplishments
Throughout his life, he pursued several other interests, including music, history, and cartography. Each of these interests entered his life almost by accident, yet each of them he approached with the same zeal and love of learning that he displayed throughout his academic career.
His research in history led him to author five other historical texts and establish his place as a historical authority. In his 2017 interview with the University of Rochester, Dr. Schwartz shared the root of his passion for history and how it related to his career: “I do love history. I think its important because history of surgery, history of medicine, history of care of patients, history of humanity adds a dimension of romance. For me, it’s added to the romance of being an academic surgeon.”
Later in his career, he picked up another interest in cartography at the suggestion of his wife: “My wife, Ruth, said I needed I hobby. I said ‘Fine, go out and get me one.’ She went to an old second-hand bookstore…and bought an English book on cartography. I actually had never heard the word before. I started collecting with a $15 map….and I began to get more knowledgeable.” This hobby spurred a life-long passion in maps and his authorship of three more books: “The Mismapping of America,” “Putting America on the Map,” and “This Land is Your Land: The Geographic Evolution of the United States.”
Contributions to American University of Antigua
While thousands of individuals in the medical community will undoubtedly mourn the passing of Dr. Schwartz, the loss of his presence will be felt especially hard by the AUA community. After serving many years at the University of Rochester, Dr. Schwartz accepted the position of Provost of AUA in 2006. In addition to his position as Provost, he served as a Professor of Surgery, where he shaped the future careers of hundreds of AUA students under his leadership.
During his AUA tenure, he also joined the New York State Advisory Panel on long-term clinical clerkships, where he was able to influence the standards and processes of medical students in clerkships across the state of New York.
A Legacy Continues
While AUA and the medical community will greatly miss Dr. Schwartz and his contributions to the surgical community, his legacy will live on his many books and journals and the teachings he shared with countless physicians who are actively practicing today. Humble from beginning to end, Dr. Schwartz shared his thoughts on his own legacy: “Your legacy as an academic leader is to create a new generation of surgeons, and that’s your obligation. You can only do that if you’ve experienced all of the problems that an ordinary surgeon does, and that requires operating.”
This dedication to his craft and commitment to building a better community has elevated Dr. Schwartz to the level of a surgical icon to many of those who were mentored by him. David C Linehan, M.D. FACS, Chairman of University of Rochester Medical Center, had the pleasure of working with Dr. Schwartz for many years and shared these final thoughts: “Being named the Seymour Schwartz Professor of Surgery is certainly the highest honor of my career in academic surgery, and I strive to emulate his unyielding commitment to excellence every day…. Scholar, innovator, author, historian, musician, educator, leader – a truly remarkable man. We are so much better because of the exemplary way he has led his life.”