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ACS Mourns the Passing of ACS Past-President Seymour I. Schwartz, MD, FACS, Author of the “Surgeon’s Bible”

The American College of Surgeons was saddened to learn that ACS Past-President Seymour I. “Sy” Schwartz, MD, FACS, passed away Friday, August 28, at age 92. As one of the most distinguished surgeons in the U.S., Dr. Schwartz edited and co-wrote the textbook used to teach generations of young surgeons—Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery—and led the surgical societies that shaped the profession. He also remained influential well into his oldest years by continuing to write, teach and commit his time to physicians in the department of surgery, University of Rochester (UR) School of Medicine, NY, and around the globe.

He began his career at the University of Rochester in 1950, when he arrived for a surgical residency. He finished residency in 1957 after a 20-month leave to serve in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and then joined the surgical faculty. For the next 60 years he cultivated expertise in hepatobiliary surgery and other complex operations and rose through the ranks of academic medicine, both inside and outside the UR. He served as chair of surgery from 1987 to 1998 and director of surgical research for 20 years.

Most notably, Dr. Schwartz edited and co-authored Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery during the years that his own career was advancing. The first edition of the book — 1,850 pages, 52 chapters, and written in a single voice — is known as “the surgeon’s Bible” and was unique for being rooted in basic science. First published it in 1969, it is now in its 11th edition.

As David Linehan, MD, FACS, Seymour I. Schwartz Professor and chairman, department of surgery, University of Rochester Medical Center, said in the University of Rochester Medical Center press release, “For leaders in our field, Sy is the aspirational mentor that we all want to emulate. His towering intellect, spirit of collegiality, indefatigable work ethic, unending curiosity and enduring relevance set the bar so high. We may never achieve his heights, but based on his embodiment of excellence, we will all keep trying. As a department, we are so saddened by his loss, but we find comfort in knowing that his remarkable legacy spans the globe and lives on.”

A Fellow of the ACS since 1959, Dr. Schwartz served in many distinguished positions within the organization: President (1997−1998); Chair, Board of Regents (1994−1997); and member, Board of Governors (1981−1987). He also served on the Clinical Congress Program Committee, as a consultant to the Commission on Cancer and as Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the American College of Surgeons for 10 years. He served as president of the Society of Clinical Surgery and the American Surgical Association and was editor-in-chief of Contemporary Surgery for 28 years and the Yearbook of Surgery for 22 years. He was honored as an ACS Icon in Surgery at Clinical Congress 2017.

“During his 70-year career, he drove innovation that literally shaped the field of surgery and the practices of countless surgeons,” said Michael F. Rotondo, MD, FACS, chief executive officer, University of Rochester Medical Faculty Group; vice-dean, clinical operations, University of Rochester School of Medicine; and former Medical Director, ACS Trauma Programs. “Through his significant contributions and teaching, the care of patients across the globe was dramatically improved. To the very end, he remained intensely curious, current and vital, adding value at every turn to the benefit of the University of Rochester, the medical center and his profession.”

In addition to his medical career, Dr. Schwartz was a history buff and collector of rare maps. In his later years, Dr. Schwartz became more deeply interested in the humanities and was committed to capturing the best things about the practice of medicine. He was fascinated by physicians who had become literary figures, and he profiled some of the nation’s finest in From Medicine to Manuscript, published in 2018.