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Teacher and Doctor at Downstate



Hi, my name is Alexander Schwartzman. I have a phenomenal privilege to be a surgeon at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, the University Hospital of Brooklyn. I am a general surgeon, which is really a specialist that takes care of a variety of illnesses that afflict people, including hernias, gallbladders, colons, breasts, breast lumps and bumps. I am an interim chair of the Department of Surgery, one of the largest surgical residences in the country. We are privileged to be able to teach. I consider myself a teacher. After all, the word “doctor” comes from “teacher,” it’s really the same. And so being a teacher at this institution allows me to practice the best medicine that I can in the context of a large medical school. Taking care of the patients is something that I consider an absolute privilege.

I think with so many choices that all of us have in anything. When actually someone comes to me, I thank them for coming to see me as their doctor, as their surgeon. And my role is not to insist, but to provide a path. What I do when I evaluate any person that I evaluate is, gather all the important information, coming up with the decision as to what I think needs to happen, what kind of workup the person would need, what kind of potential treatment, and educate not only the residents who work with us and the medical students, but also the patients. Because I believe that giving the education, giving the right information to the people we care for, will provide for the very strongest of bonds and provide for a honest, trustworthy relationship. Because they need us, the patients need us to be experts, but we need to be, in addition to being experts, we need to be a warm, nurturing presence. Because by the virtue of the fact that a person would come into a medical school, into a university, into an academic medical center, they already expect to have an excellent medical care. But excellent medical care is much more than just providing the right technical expertise. It’s being able to be a human being who is able to take care of another human being.

And this is the path that I choose. And this is the path that I believe I show to my medical students and the residents. Where I treat people as persons who just develop a particular medical condition or a surgical condition. And so I provide the guidance. I provide the choices. Never insisting on anything that any person or their families have to do. My role is to provide that path that they hopefully will understand as something that will provide for an excellent working relationship for a partnership between myself, my team, and the patient’s family and the patient themselves. So I’m a devoted and committed part of SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Anything that advances the goal of my institution, I’m delighted to do. And if in the middle of that, I also get some additional patients, that’s great too.

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