Letter from the Chair

Gilbert R. Upchurch Jr., MD, Edward M. Copeland III and Ann & Ira Horowitz Department Chair of the University of Florida Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, Department of Surgery

Throughout our Fall 2020 semester, I have found myself reflecting on how our faculty and staff have persevered, grown and adapted in the face of these challenging times.

Our country was not only torn apart by a disease, but by the overt racism that led to the murder of George Floyd and others.  In collaboration with our Assistant Chair of Inclusion and Wellness, our department issued a statement describing our strong and unequivocal stance opposing racism. We openly affirm that the treatment of humans based on skin color must stop and that we will ensure our actions reflect our commitment to not only diversity and inclusion, but equity. We dedicated our educational retreat to understand diversity, equity and inclusion better across the department. In addition, to assure this is not forgotten we started a year long curriculum helping us all get better regarding matters such as implicit bias.

Despite our individual struggles and grief in the face of these challenges, our faculty, trainees, and staff have continued to provide high quality care for patients throughout the pandemic and international movement for Black Lives Matter. Our residents, fellows and staff remain on the front lines, evaluating patients in the Emergency Room, while incurring great risk to their own health. We continued to operate and see patients when they needed our help, taking precautions to ensure their and our safety was a top priority.

This issue of the Stitch highlights but a fraction of the times we have stood together.

UF Health Shand’s Hospital emerged as Florida’s top health center in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2020-21 Best Hospitals survey, with a remarkable nine adult and three pediatric medical specialties placing in the nation’s Top 50 — more than any other hospital in the Sunshine State. Pulmonology and lung surgery (tied for 37th) were one of the specialties that ranked highest in all of Florida, and gastroenterology and GI surgery placed similarly well (45th). In further support of their commitment to excellence, our lung transplant team has been in the news for their historic transplants of patients whose lungs were damaged by COVID-19. Our congenital heart center group was ranked #12 in the nation! Faculty from our UF Sepsis and Critical Illness Research Center also published pivotal research regarding the immune system’s response to the coronavirus, while a heartwarming, once-in-a-lifetime kidney transplant received international coverage.

Although the long-standing emotional and fiscal toll of these unprecedented events is significant, all that I know about human resolve has led me to believe that our department will continue to lead, as we always do.

Our faculty, trainees and staff have repeatedly demonstrated resilience and tenacity during this time, and it remains a privilege to be a part of this amazing department.

Go Gators!