February is Black History Month, which 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 Resistance, which gives us the opportunity to reflect on how African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression. 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. 

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 commemorating Black history and achievement. Unfortunately, recent incidents confirm that we need Black History month to remind us that we are not yet where we hope to be. During this past year, Boston was able to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King. The recent unveiling of “The Embrace” statue is an important reminder of the need to bring people together. As said by Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of civil rights leader, “Currently when there’s so much division, we need symbols that talk about bringing us together.” 

This year to commemorate Black History Month, we have invited students from Mass General’s Youth Scholar Program to join us on February 23rd (during their school vacation) to spend a day with us to observe and explore their interests working in health care. The program works with Revere, Chelsea, East Boston, Dearborn, and Edward M. Kennedy Academy high schools. The day will include a hands-on suturing class in the Simulation Lab as well as hearing from some of our residents and faculty about their medical career journeys. This will be followed by lunch, and each student will receive a keepsake from their day at MGH. 

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.

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 

Vinod Narra, MD
Leader, URiM Workgroup, Mass General, Department of Surgery