Prominent Surgeon Resigns Post After Backlash Over Editorial

April 18, 2011

Scott Hensley

Dr. Lazar Greenfield

The American College of Surgeons, the leading group for the profession, will have a new president come this fall.

But it won't be Dr. Lazar Greenfield, a distinguished vascular surgeon who last year was honored by the group with an award for innovation and who was until this weekend the college's president-elect.

Though he may be an ace in the operating room, Greenfield, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, proved tone deaf — or worse — as a writer and editor. In a Valentine's Day editorial for Surgery News, a publication affiliated with the ACS, Greenfield extolled the virtues of semen as a mood-enhancer for women. That editorial proved his undoing.

The piece recounted a bunch of different studies and concluded:

So there's a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there's a better gift for that day than chocolates.

Well, that didn't sit well with quite a few people. The entire February issue of Surgery News was pulled from the Web. And complaints poured into the American College of Surgeons.

"I was aghast," Dr. Colleen Brophy, a professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University and an ACS member for more than two decades, told Dr. Pauline Chen, who wrote about the controversy on the New York Times's Well blog last week. Brophy resigned from the group to protest how it mishandled things.

The blog Retraction Watch has been all over the case, and you can read the full text of the editorial there. Pretty quickly, Lazar lost his job as editor of Surgery News because of the editorial.

And, as Retraction Watch reported, Lazar has now been replaced as president-elect of ACS by Dr. Patricia J. Numann of Syracuse, N.Y.

Lazar told the New York Times in a statement that he had apologized many times but ultimately resigned to put an end to the "disruptive issue." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.