American Surgical Association Transactions

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1928 - 2020

Seymour I. Schwartz, M.D., 1928-2020

Seymour I. Schwartz, M.D., an icon and one of the most distinguished surgeons in America, died at age 92 on August 28, 2020, at the home of his son in St. Louis, MO. Dr. Schwartz had many talents and contributions to medicine, but perhaps the most notable was that he co-wrote and edited the textbook, Schwartz's Principles of Surgery. Known as "the surgeon's Bible," it was rooted in science and has been used to teach generations of young physicians. It is now in its 11th edition. Dr. Schwartz served as president of the country's three most important surgical societies: The American Surgical Association, the Society of Clinical Surgery, and the American College of Surgeons, which bestowed upon him a special honor in 2017 for his 90th birthday. His storied career began as a surgical resident at the University of Rochester in 1950, and included a 20-month leave to serve in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He then returned to Rochester to join the faculty and for the next 60 years cultivated expertise in hepatobillary surgery and other complex operations, while writing, raising a family, and rising through the ranks of academic medicine. He served as the UR Chair of Surgery from 1987 to 1998, and director of surgical research for 20 years.

Dr. Schwartz was an aspirational mentor. Sy's 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. We are so saddened by his loss but we find comfort in knowing that his remarkable legacy spans the globe and lives on.

The son of Jewish immigrants who attended public school in the Bronx, Dr. Schwartz had many interests. He was a history buff, a well-known collector of rare maps, and in his later years he became deeply interested in humanities. In 2018 he published a book, From Medicine to Manuscript, which features essays and biographies on exceptional talents such as Oliver Sacks (whom Dr. Schwartz interviewed before both of their deaths), Khaled Hosseini, Atul Gawande, Tess Gerritsen, and Abraham Verghese. Dr. Schwartz is survived by three sons and a sister. His wife, Ruth, a pioneer in obstetrics and gynecology, died in 1999.