Head of American College of Surgeons Resigns After an 'Offensive' Editorial

Inside Story of Brains Surgery

Dr. Lazar Greenfield, president-elect of the American College of Surgeons, resigned from his position Sunday after two months of controversy swirled around his Valentine's Day editorial in which he suggested that semen might make a better Valentine's Day gift than chocolate.

"My personal and written apologies were ignored, and my suggestion to use my experience to educate others rejected," Greenfield told ABC News in a statement. "Therefore, rather than have this remain a disruptive issue, I resigned as president-elect of the ACS."

Greenfield's editorial drew on research published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2002 that found college women who had unprotected sex were less likely to be depressed than women who used condoms during intercourse.

But the words he chose in his op-ed offended many.

"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," Greenfield wrote in the editorial published in Surgery News, where he was the editor-in-chief before resigning in the midst of the storm.

The editorial ignited outrage, particularly among women practicing surgery, a field still heavily dominated by men. Some doctors said that the comments were sexist and continued the age-old boys club mentality among surgeons.

"Dr. Greenfield's comments are unfortunate, doubly so from someone not only in a leadership position but also as one so highly regarded," said Dr. Laurie Kirstein, a breast surgeon at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. "I don't believe it reflects the position of the [American College of Surgeons]. I do think he needed to resign, however, since antiquated comments such as this should not be propagated. "

The American College of Surgeons, which publishes Surgery News, retracted the editorial and removed the entire February issue from its website because of the backlash.

On Sunday, ACS officials released a statement to its members.

"Dr. Greenfield addressed the board and expressed his deep regret that individuals had been offended by the article," the statement said. "After reaffirming his long-standing support for women in surgery, Dr. Greenfield resigned from his position as an officer of the College."

Highly Regarded Surgeon Resigns

In a statement to the regents, Greenfield said he had mentored women and encouraged them to pursue surgery. When he moved to Michigan in 1987, Greenfield said he promoted surgery as a career choice for women, who now make up roughly half of the faculty in the University of Michigan's department of surgery.

"As the only child of a divorced mother who had to struggle for us in a man's world, I know how difficult it can be for women," Greenfield told the regents.

In support of her colleague, Dr. Diane M. Simeone, a professor of surgery at the University of Michigan, told The New York Times, "There still is a lot of gender bias in surgery, and I have seen it myself on multiple fronts. That was never evident from Dr. Greenfield."

The study Greenfield drew on surveyed 293 college women and found that those who participated in unprotected sex were less likely to be depressed and commit suicide than those who used condoms.

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