Black History Month was founded by noted historian, educator and journalist, Carter G. Woodson, to highlight Black Americans who have made contributions to their field. During this month, which also celebrates the birth of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, we commemorate the past and look forward to a less racially divided future. This year’s Black History Month theme is Black Health and Wellness, which gives us the opportunity to reflect on racial disparities in health outcomes and access to care. The Department of Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital focuses on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion through a broad committed effort. Our initiatives to increase the recruitment of Black trainees and staff, to foster engagement with underserved communities, as well as our “Walls do talk” campaign, which promotes inclusion through representation, are examples of this ongoing commitment. The more important question may be “How can we create an inclusive space for Black voices in academic surgery?”—a space that has not always been welcoming.

We are at an auspicious moment where history is being made. To have true meaning, Black History Month should not be taken for granted. It should not be a time for businesses, institutions and individuals to go through the motions of perfunctory observance or rote proclamation. Rather it should be a time for all to deeply reflect on its meaning and to remind us, no matter how far we think we have come, to realize how far we have yet to go.

Events over the last several years have shown us the critical importance of highlighting and honoring Black history, contributions and achievement.

Join us in celebrating Black history, remember what has been achieved thus far and envision how much more we can achieve together. We must learn the lessons of history. It is imperative that we celebrate Black contributions and work toward eliminating racial inequities every month of the year, not just in February. To quote John Hwabejire, MD, MBBS, MPH, assistant professor of surgery and attending surgeon at the Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at Mass General:

We owe it to previous generations that devoted their lives to making the world a better place, to members of our current generation who remain victims of injustices, and to future generations that we must prevent from being victimized by these injustices. They have no place in our society.

John Hwabejire, MD, MBBS, MPH

John Hwabejire, MD, MBBS, MPH
Assistant professor of surgery and attending surgeon at the Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at Mass General



Download a free copy of the new American College of Surgeons book called, “Black Surgeons and Surgery in America.”

Thank you,

Keith Lillemoe, MD

Chief of Surgery, Mass General

Sareh Parangi, MD

Chair, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Mass General, Department of Surgery

Salewa Oseni, MD

Co-Chair, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Mass General, Department of Surgery