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Key figure in surgery education, URMC's Dr. Seymour Schwartz has died

Officials at the University of Rochester Medical Center are remembering a beloved and iconic personality from their surgical staff, Dr. Seymour Schwartz. He died Friday at the age of 92 at his son's home in St. Louis, Missouri.

A bio on URMC’s website says that Schwartz was “one of the most distinguished surgeons in America,” having edited and co-written a textbook used to teach generations of young doctors.

Schwartz edited and co-authored the textbook for the profession, Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery,  first published by McGraw-Hill in 1969, now in its 11th edition.

Officials say he remained influential well into his oldest years by continuing to write, teach, and commit his time to physicians in Rochester and around the world.

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Schwartz's career began 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; he then joined the surgical faculty.

For the next 60 years, URMC says he developed expertise in hepatobiliary surgery and other complex operations and rose through the ranks of academic medicine, both inside and outside UR. He was chair of surgery from 1987 to 1998, and director of surgical research for 20 years.

“Holding the Seymour Schwartz Distinguished Professorship in Surgery is the most important honor any surgeon could receive,” said Dr. David Linehan, chair of surgery. “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.”

Schwartz retired from the operating room at age 72, but continued to remain active in medical circles after retirement.

His many accolades including being awarded UR’s Eastman Medal in 2018.

“When the American College of Surgeons honored Dr. Schwartz as an ‘Icon of Surgery’ in 2017, they provided yet another national affirmation of what we here at URMC have always known,” said Dr. Mark Taubman, CEO of URMC. “Dr. Schwartz was quite simply a giant in both his field and in the life of our institution, where he was an approachable, gracious and insightful guide to generations of physicians who drew on the deep experience and knowledge that he so willingly shared.”

In addition to his medical career, Schwartz was a history buff and a collector of rare maps, some of which are now in the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation on UR’s River Campus.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.