Monday, April 18, 2011

Sexism and Surgery: A Surgical Leader Falters


A well-known academic surgeon was “hoist with his own petard” via an unusual commentary he wrote in his capacity as editor of Surgery News, the official newspaper of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Lazar Greenfield, Emeritus Professor of Surgery at the University of Michigan and inventor of the Greenfield filter, a device used for prevention of pulmonary embolus (clots traveling to the lungs), was forced to resign his position as editor and also as president-elect of the ACS.

The entire issue of the newspaper containing the piece was retracted by the ACS but it can be read here. The editorial, an apparent attempt at Valentine’s Day humor, suggested that women experienced lighter moods after unprotected sex with men and extolled the virtues of semen as a substitute for chocolate as a Valentine’s Day gift.

Rather predictably, the editorial was not viewed favorably by a number of women. Personally, I thought it was inappropriate for an official publication of the largest surgical organization in the country, and worse, it wasn’t funny. In fact, I tweeted the following several weeks before the feces hit the fan and the story was finally noticed by the New York Times.

There have been a slew of comments ranging from Greenfield is the worst sexist since Andrew Dice Clay to women are too sensitive. So now a famous surgeon, known to have encouraged and mentored women entering surgery, is disgraced. And the ACS loses both ways because it took the leaders of the society way too long to resolve the problem and they lost a formerly respected leader anyway.

Bottom line. It’s 2011, and this sort of thing just doesn’t fly any more. I feel sorry for Dr. Greenfield, whom I’ve never met. He seems like a nice guy who made a mistake which proved fatal to an otherwise illustrious career. Too bad.

2 comments:

Vickie said...

Did someone have to approve that article before it went public? I can't imagine anyone not realizing how inappropriate it was.

busysynch mac said...

Ha, ha, ha "better than chocolate.."
I don't get it.

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