Semen editorial costs Greenfield presidency of American College of Surgeons

courtesy University of Michigan

As we reported nearly two weeks ago, the eminent surgeon Lazar Greenfield recently lost his position as editor-in-chief of Surgery News over a Valentine’s Day editorial that some readers, particularly women, found offensive.  Surgery News is an in-house publication of the American College of Surgeons (although it’s published by Elsevier), and Greenfield was scheduled to take the gavel in October as the new president of the college.

No longer.

As two Retraction Watch readers have noted tonight, the surgery group has notified its members that Greenfield has stepped down from his official position with college. Here’s the letter that was sent today:

Dear Colleague,

We are writing to inform you that the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons met on Sunday, April 17, to consider the continued status of Lazar J. Greenfield, M.D., FACS, as an officer of the College. Dr. Greenfield recently authored an editorial in Surgery News that some members of the surgical community found offensive. The College received numerous communications from the surgical community about the editorial.

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

The contributions Dr. Greenfield has made to the field of surgery, including the invention of the Greenfield Filter, can not be overstated. We wish to honor Dr. Greenfield and celebrate his inestimable contributions to the College and the surgical community. We also know that at this critical juncture for surgery and health care in America, it is important that the American College of Surgeons not be distracted by any issues that would diminish its focus on improving care of the surgical patient.

As determined by the Board of Regents, Patricia J. Numann, MD, FACS, First Vice-President-Elect of the College, will assume the office of President-Elect.


Carlos A. Pellegrini, MD, FACS, Chair, Board of Regents
L. D. Britt, MD, FACS, President
David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, Executive Director
American College of Surgeons

Regardless of where one stands on the propriety of Greenfield’s editorial — and comments on Retraction Watch and at The New York Times, which picked up the story Friday — have run the gamut from outrage to applause — no one can be anything but shocked by the extraordinarily rapid fall of such a major figure in his field over what by all accounts was an attempt at levity.

Full disclosure: One of us (AM) works for a company that publishes a newsmagazine that competes with Surgery News.

0 thoughts on “Semen editorial costs Greenfield presidency of American College of Surgeons”

  1. What I find sad about this entire episode is the fact that Greenfield has done more to advance the position of women in surgery than any of his female detractors such as Brophy have. When this controversy arose his most ardent defenders were none other than women whom he actually worked with and mentored.

  2. Given that biologists puzzle over the so called “paradox of sexual reproduction” and related anomalies for over 30 years, given that Olivia Judson has written whacky articles about the weird sexual practices of all sorts of animals in The Economist, The New York Times, and Nature (all tongue in cheek anthropomorphising), given that this resulted in a very successful book (Dr. Tatiana’s sex advice to all creation) and that book into an even weirder TV show
    (href=”–radio/lets-talk-about-sex-chimpanzee/2006/01/17/1137466994527.html”), I cannot at all understand what the scandal is about.

    Oh, but Dr. Tatiana is of course advising her patients to either reproduce without males, or to eat them after mating, or some such thing. ‘Masculinists’ that could feel offended do not exist.

  3. Independent of the (doubtful) scientific value of Dr. Greenfield’s editorial I think we are witnesses to an overreaction by editors and scientific societies which seem to fear for their own reputation. Instead of defending the freedom of any scientist to express whatever strange views and to stipulate scientific discussion to bolster or to reject those views, they chose to effectively censor and silence Dr. Greenfield. I wonder what comes next? Will manuscripts that go against the current in future be rejected?

  4. Well, I guess that my celebration of the legacy of Jonathan Swift and his thoughts on the population problem in Ireland will be postponed for just a nonce, eh?

  5. This is more of the ridiculous politically correct crap that has been forced on us. Being female and having been a General Surgery resident back in the 80’s, I find this whole thing ridiculous. When will all people, including Dr. Greenfield, be evaluated on their merits instead of their ability to keep everyone happy. No one in any arena of prominence can keep everyone happy all the time. It is time to quit catering to the minority that complains the loudest.

  6. I believe the work of Dr. Petre North as well as several others have provided a large enough body of research to adequately support Dr. Greenfield’s conclusion, as controversial as it may seem. We should consider the merits of his claim before looking to dismiss him and his academic value for the sake of merely being politically correct.

  7. I find it unsettling not that the editorial was published, but that it was published in a newsletter titled “SURGERY News”. The vaguely amusing piece has some merit, but probably would be more appropriate in a publication such as “The Onion”.

  8. It is so ridiculous that this surgeon felt pressured to resign after making a tongue-in-cheek reference to a serious scientific study. I do not find his bias to be “macho”, as quoted in another article, when he is simply postulating on a possible scientific link between absorbing chemicals in semen and an improvement in women’s mood. What if it turns out to be true? Does this then absolve the doctor of his “unfeminist” comments?

    This is another example of feminists beating their old dead horse, “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”. Perhaps there are myriad and magnificent complementary links between men and women owing to our co-evolution or our miraculous creation.

    A woman commentator

    1. i fully agree. this is a case of political correctness gone horribly wrong. i count myself as a feminist, and i find nothing offending in the doctor’s comment. he was simply making an inference from a study, and poking fun at a materialistic corporate sham of a holiday.

  9. If he made these comments and say he was the CEO of a big corporate company, then would it be acceptable for him to step down/resign? Unfortunately, if you look into people’s comments/responses towards big corporate CEOs, they are publicly demonized for making insensitive comments. Why should it be different for a leader in the medical field?

    More questions: How many corporate employees receive inter-employee sensitivity training? My experience is that most companies have HR sessions about these topics.

    How many medical professionals receive such training? My experience, almost none.

    How many medical professionals, if they actually receive such training, take it seriously? I am currently at a hospital where such classes were mandated by the administration. Every fellow doctor I observed was laughing and joking about it, not taking it seriously both before and after, many commenting that it was a waste of time. RNs on the other hand were taking it very seriously.

    1. What in heavens name is so insensitive about the remarks Dr. Greenfield made? This is all much ado about nothing. The morons who forced him to resign are both ignorant and have no sense of humor. I guess if I opine that there is evidence that salivary IgA prevents breast cancer if applied on a regular basis or that the dots around the aureola are for blind people to find the nipple would cause demonstrations in front of my house. And yes I worked in pathology, I am blind and I do have a sense of humor. I felt it necessary to inform the readers of that lest they should that I am insensitive to the blind or any other dumb ideas they might wish to advance.

  10. Entertaining revelations, but a regrettable outcome. Dr Greenfield’s fate is hardly surprising. His main transgression is that of political incorrectness.

    To begin with, he implies that the attraction between men and women may be largely chemically determined. This is a serious breach of decorum in a culture committed to sexual manipulation and denial. Long after the so-called sexual revolution, for instance, we continue to use the word ‘dating’ in place of ‘screwing.’ We also routinely use the word ‘love’ in place of ‘infatuation.’ This adolescent fiction helps to preserve chronic confusion, and to pave the way for damaged relationships and successive generations of broken families.

    But Dr Greenfield’s most unforgivable crime is to suggest that men may be providing something of authentic value to women–other, that is, than doing their dirty work. For decades, anti-male sentiment has been ramping up here and in other parts of the globe. Today, prejudice against men is so entrenched that the terms ‘sexism’ and ‘gender bias’ are used almost exclusively to mean ‘discrimination against women.’ But for those willing to perceive it, discrimination against men is widespread and deeply rooted. This has been thoroughly documented by writers such as Warren Farrell, and is also acknowledged by the more intellectually honest feminists such as Camille Paglia. But conventional feminist victim-posturing, hypocrisy, and narcissism show no signs of abating in the foreseeable future.

    Meanwhile, we will continue to punish and silence individuals who speak the plain truth, or who express unpopular points of view1. We will send our disposable sons, brothers and fathers to be mutilated or die in military conflicts2; will complain that our healthcare system is not doing enough for women, in spite of the fact that women outlive men by an average of more than 5 years; will make our schools inhospitable to boys; will discriminate against fathers in domestic disputes; will portray women who kill men as martyrs or heroes rather than criminals; will argue that women are economically disadvantaged, despite the fact that they control more than half of personal wealth in the US3 ; and so on.

    The popular conundrum, What do women want?, has an answer. Most women say they want equality, but more accurately, they desire power. They say they want power over themselves, but in fact, they crave power over men as well. Fair enough; but all power comes with a price. So far, the feminist majority have shown that they desire power without having to pay a price4. In other words, they yearn for privilege without responsibility. That’s an unsustainable fantasy, as we will soon enough discover.

    1 For an instructive example, consider the Larry Summers incident at Harvard in 2005 (

    2 In spite of the vaunted contributions of women in modern armed conflicts, it is almost exclusively the male soldiers who are killed, crippled, or disfigured for life. We say they sacrifice their lives to preserve our liberties. But in most cases, it is we who sacrifice their lives in order to preserve our comforts and our illusions.

    3 See, and other sources.

    4 For instance, when was the last time we heard a feminist argue that any future military draft must include women? Or alongside the mantra, ‘Equal pay for equal work,’ how often do we hear, ‘Equal time for equal crime’?

  11. Political Correctness brings fear and the death of unfettered scientific inquiry, technological progress, economic advancement, humor, fun, and humanity itself.

    The most competent of professionals are being driven from their posts by the “outraged”, most of whom have contributed comparatively little to human progress.

  12. Ai Weiwei, world renouned Chinese artist and activist was recently imprisoned, according to NPR, for publishing the names of the earthquake victims who died due to substandard building construction on his blog. It kind of puts this in perspective.

    This doctor will always have a job, and is being removed from more visible and influential positions for poor judgement. While I don’t think he meant any harm, I really don’t sympathize with him either as a “martyr”, when there is real oppression in the world.

    1. You can always find someone who has suffered a more grievous injustice than someone else. I sympathize with Ai Weiwei’s plight, and I condemn his contemptible treatment by Chinese authorities. But his imprisonment diminishes neither the scope nor the importance of the issues at hand here. The fact that someone else has lung cancer doesn’t mean that my bleeding ulcer is a trivial affliction.

  13. Yet Greenfield is not the victim that some make him out to be, either. Even if he didn’t mean to be so offensive, that’s an occupational hazard of his job.

    It isn’t just the degree of the suffering. If he had written an article respectfully, even if it had some politically incorrect views, and was punished for his political or scientific views alone, that would be injustice, no matter how mild.

    He made a joke and was called out on it. The backlash was more severe than expected, but this was not an injustice. I wish him the best, but I’m just not moved by his situation. Years ago I would have felt more pity. I guess I’m just more hard boiled, now.

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