"Sy is the ambitious mentor we all want to emulate," said Dr. David Linehan, Chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who also holds the title of Seymour I. Schwartz Professor of Surgery. Dr. Linehan praised Dr. Schwartz for "his outstanding intellect, his spirit of collegiality, his tireless work ethic, his infinite curiosity and his lasting relevance".
Dr. Craig R. Smith, chairman of the surgical department at New York Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University Medical Center, recalled Dr. Schwartz's "insatiable intellectual curiosity" and called him "a first-order polymath" who was "much, much" more than just an academic surgeon. "
Seymour Ira Schwartz was born in the Bronx on January 22, 1928 to parents of Jewish immigrant families. His father, Dr. Samuel Schwartz, was a doctor who taught anatomy at the Polyclinic Hospital in Manhattan and whose family came from what is now Belarus. His mother was Martha (Yampolsky) Schwartz, who ran her husband's medical practice and whose parents were from Poland.
A gifted actor in student productions at DeWitt Clinton High School, Sy was encouraged by his father to pursue a career in theater but chose to become a surgeon. Accepted by Yale but unable to afford tuition, he enrolled on a scholarship at the University of Wisconsin and completed his medical degree in two years.
He began medical school at Syracuse University, graduated from New York University, and did an internship at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1950.
Recognition…Ph / University of Rochester Medical, via Associated Press
In the 1960s, while serving on the University of Rochester Admissions Committee, he was horrified to learn that a high-profile candidate had been turned down for being Jewish. Dr. Schwartz inquired about how he, a Jew from New York, had been admitted and learned that school officials had mistaken him for Sidney Schwartz, a young Brooklyn tennis star.