Diversity & Inclusion

Attending surgeon and resident surgeon.

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr

Awareness

In the year 2020 we at the University at Buffalo, like many other institutions, found ourselves deeply disturbed by the damaging — often fatal — consequences of structural racism and historic racial inequity. At the same time, as physicians, we witnessed the unmistakably disproportionate effect that the COVID-19 pandemic was wreaking upon our Black, Indigenous and communities of color.  

The inaugural Beyond the Knife Lecture with Harvard professor, author and activist, Dr. Cornel West.

As we reflected upon ourselves and our beloved institutions we recognized that it would require new initiatives and sustained effort to achieve our goal of a more socially just surgical program. To bring this sense of awareness into the realm of action, the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ Department of Surgery convened a working group in June 2020 to build understanding, address historic inequity, and commit ourselves to real solutions. Our intent is that the department play an active and intentional role in working against racism. To this end, the Department of Surgery is proud to outline our Diversity & Inclusion Initiative.  

Surgery residents at a Black Lives Matter protest in Buffalo.

We at the Department of Surgery are committed to sustained action toward a more just, diverse and equitable world. Health inequities are ubiquitous and highlight an opportunity for us--both as individuals and collectively--to address them head-on. It is crucial that we remain aware of the larger systems in which we are embedded and the consequences of our actions as we seek to create a better world. We must acknowledge the beliefs and behaviors that have divided us for so long. As surgeons, we are trained to look honestly at adverse outcomes and to engage in careful, collective efforts to modify harmful behaviors. Our profession has always recognized the importance of reflection, self-correction, and revision.  It is time to apply these tools to the scourge of racism. It is our hope that this initiative will offer an honest survey of where we were, where we are, and where we hope to be in the future. Our commitment is to deliberate, longitudinal change--an unceasing effort to be better.

We hope that you will join us on this journey.

Dr. Steven Schwaitzberg, department chair, delivering a speech discussing what it means to be a responsible surgeon during the 2020 graduation ceremony.

Action

“Inclusivity means not ‘just we’re allowed to be there,’ but we are valued. I’ve always said: smart teams will do amazing things, but truly diverse teams will do impossible things.” ~ Claudia Brind-Woody

Our approach to social justice is multifaceted, and grounded in our intention to foster an intellectually rigorous environment where a range of great minds feel welcomed and supported. This work is ongoing, and we are proud to outline our first core initiatives below. We encourage you to explore these activities, and contact us if you are interested in becoming more involved.

Continuing Education

Real progress is not possible without a commitment to education. It is here that humanistic ethics are forged, preserved, and transmitted to the next generation of surgeons. It is here that we engage with the vexing issues of our day in a spirit of free and creative inquiry. The Department of Surgery is committed to incorporating the issue of systemic racism into our core surgical curriculum, and look forward to the evolution of these efforts as we establish a more welcoming and inclusive surgical community. Please explore the ways in which we have included DEI into our curriculum.

  • The introduction of Health Disparities curriculum into General Surgery training
  • Piloting a Longitudinal Health Disparities Elective at Roswell Park
Declaration to Diversity and Equity Donors, Jacobs School Department of Surgery.

We appreciate all donations made to the diversity and equity fund, big or small. The minimum donation to appear on the Declaration to Diversity and Equity is only $1.00.