Published March 30, 2016
Steven D. Schwaitzberg, MD, professor and chair of surgery, has been honored with the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) Distinguished Service Award for 2016.
The award is given to a surgeon who has made a significant, long-term educational, research, clinical or technological contribution to the field of surgical endoscopy and has advanced the mission of SAGES.
In his nomination letter, David Rattner, MD, chairman of the SAGES Awards Committee, said Schwaitzberg has devoted himself tirelessly for over 20 years to SAGES, serving as chairman of five committees, heading the Learning Center and holding many of the offices that make up the executive committee, culminating in his SAGES presidency in 2011.
“Steve Schwaitzberg embodies qualities — energy, ‘can do spirit’ and enthusiasm to take on challenges — that are the core of the SAGES culture,” Rattner said.
Rattner pointed out that Schwaitzberg’s engineering background and technological savvy allowed him to provide insight and guidance to SAGES leadership as its meeting structure became increasingly video-based in the late 1990s.
“He was also one of the advocates for novel sessions in the meetings, such as the non-peer reviewed new technology session — a very out-of-the-box idea at the time he proposed it,” he said.
Rattner also noted that Schwaitzberg has devoted countless hours to cementing SAGES relationships with major societies, such as the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and the American College of Surgeons, to find common ground and ways to work together in areas of mutual interest.
“While there have been many terrific SAGES leaders over the years, few, if any, have put in the hours and sweat equity that Steve Schwaitzberg has,” Rattner said. “I can’t recall a task he was asked to do that he declined. To me this is the essence of ‘service.’ His accomplishments and legacy will be enduring, and I think he embodies what distinguished service to SAGES is all about.”
An internationally recognized expert in minimally invasive surgery, Schwaitzberg is also medical director of surgical program development at Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center.
“The SAGES award will always hold a special meaning for me,” he said. “This organization is the largest general surgery society in the United States, but what makes it special is the organizational dedication to service — first to the patients and for the sake of the profession as well.
“There are so many people who have donated countless hours and worked tirelessly toward these efforts. Thus, to be singled out amongst them and be distinguished for this is truly special for me,” Schwaitzberg said.
“Some of the people who have won this in the past are my personal heroes in surgery.”
Prior to coming to UB in 2015, Schwaitzberg was a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and chief of surgery at the Cambridge Health Alliance.
Schwaitzberg has focused his research in five areas:
Among his most significant research accomplishments is demonstrating the feasibility of using microwaves to warm blood, facilitating transfusions. His work in this area led to the development and federal approval of a practical device.
Schwaitzberg’s basic laboratory work on an anti-adhesion device in abdominal surgery progressed to a pivotal clinical trial supporting its use in patients. He also has made contributions in the preclinical and clinical use of surgical robots. He holds three U.S. patents.
His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and industry.
He has promoted and taught minimally invasive surgical techniques in the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Greece, Japan, Brazil and France.
Schwaitzberg has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, articles, book chapters, editorials and clinical reviews.
He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and serves on its board of governors.
He has won numerous awards, including the American College of Surgeons 2010 Health Policy Scholar Award, the Computerworld/National Smithsonian Honors 21st Century Laureate Achievement Award and many recognitions for teaching excellence.
Schwaitzberg accepted the award during the SAGES annual meeting March 16 in Boston.