Buffalo, New York

Two letters from the Department of Surgery

Department of Surgery
Training tomorrow’s surgical leaders, today

May 18, 2022

On behalf of the Department of Surgery, I want to express our deepest sorrow at Saturday’s attack—and our solidarity with our Black neighbors who have been affected by this hate crime.

This weekend’s racist violence is a reminder of the immensity of the work that lies before us.  We have been trained to care for the victims of violence and we do so every day. We must now learn how to more effectively counter the vile forces in the culture that led to this tragedy and so many others.

As medical professionals, we are invested in prevention.  And prevention in this case includes recognizing and addressing the larger reality that has gone unacknowledged for too long in our field: the poisonous inequality, exclusion and violence endured every day by Black Americans.

As we remember the lives lost because of racism and hatred, let us also consider the pain, fear and exhaustion that our Black colleagues and neighbors experience.  And let us ask ourselves: What can we do to change this shameful state of affairs?

While we have made strides in the last two years, it is not enough.  This is no time for self-justification—but rather for rigorous, ongoing self-inventory and an honest assessment of the way things are. Each of us has a role to play. 

Let us work together, with an increased sense of purpose, to reduce the suffering that is produced by this unequal system.  There are numerous ways to join the department’s anti-racism efforts—from community work to education to mentoring.  To learn more and get involved go to https://medicine.buffalo.edu/departments/surgery/diversity-and-inclusion.html

It is incumbent upon us to speak up, to start these conversations, and to take action where we can be most useful.   Let us engage in long-term, shared efforts to build community, create understanding, and offer authentic protection and safety to each other.

The victims and families of Saturday’s attack are not data points or rhetorical abstractions.  They are our neighbors—and no one should have to live in fear based on the color of their skin.  This hateful environment was not created by chance or accident, and we must stand beside our neighbors to do whatever is in our power to ease the burdens that have been forced upon them. Not simply to ‘do no harm,’ but to actively seek to prevent further harm from being inflicted.


Steven D. Schwaitzberg, MD FACS
Professor and Chair, Department of Surgery
Professor of Biomedical Informatics
University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Office: Buffalo General Medical Center * 100 High St. D Bldg, 3rd Fl * Buffalo, NY 14203

* * *

May 18, 2022

On behalf of the Surgical Residency, there aren’t words adequate to address the most recent event and circumstances that led to it.

Our trauma center regularly plans for how to address mass casualty events, yet Saturday was a day we hoped would never come.  As surgeons, we are frustrated to not even have had an opportunity to save a life.  As humans, we are appalled at the damage another human can intentionally inflict.  As a city, we are embarrassed that the degree of segregation in our region is what made us a target for this racist attack.

We are hurting for our neighbors. Many of us are afraid, but many of us are privileged enough to not know the deeper level of fear that our Black brothers and sisters feel daily–fear further amplified by Saturday’s attack.

As surgeons in our community, we have an obligation to step up, be present, and advocate.

This is a moment for real discussion–and action.

Next Thursday morning May 26, in place of Grand Rounds, we are dedicating time for our department and residency to come together and begin to work through how we can best respond.  

We encourage you to attend in-person but if that is not an option the zoom link is: https://buffalo.zoom.us/j/95702978507?pwd=TFFFR2ZJSzZURXVVQjN4c2YvZUl3dz09

I look forward to seeing you there.


Clairice A. Cooper, MD, MSHPEd, FACS
Program Director, General Surgery Residency
Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Trauma and Critical Care
University at Buffalo, State University of New York
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences