Lazar Greenfield will not become the next president of the American College of Surgeons because of a Valentine's Day editorial he wrote in Surgery News that had nothing to do with surgery: he expounded instead on the mood-lifting qualities of exposure to semen. The entire February issue, not just the editorial, has since been retracted and Greenfield resigned as editor in chief of the publication on April 5. But his resignation Sunday from the ACS puts the 78-year-old back to being plain old professor emeritus of surgery at the University of Michigan. He told the New York Times that he didn't want the editorial flap to "remain a disruptive issue," and said, "I only hope that those who choose to judge me will read the article in the spirit in which it was intended."
Here's some of the language that caused offense: "Female college students having unprotected sex were significantly less depressed than were those whose partners used condoms (Arch. Sex. Behav. 2002;31:289-93). Their better moods were not just a feature of promiscuity, because women using condoms were just as depressed as those practicing total abstinence." You can read the whole editorial at Retraction Watch.
So now that Greenfield is out, what's actually going to change in the medical world? Medcity News asks today if surgery's "macho culture" will start to fade, pointing out that the flap over the editorial was "less about Greenfield and more about the ACS' response to the problem." Some colleagues have pointed out that Greenfield was a professional advocate of women surgeons, who frequently face intimidation and harassment. On Friday, University of Michigan professor Dr. Diane M. Simeone told ACS member and Times blogger Pauline Chen "I think it’s important to know that this is one event and to weigh it against a long career where he has always been completely above board and a role model for supporting women in surgery." But his public gaffe is what Greenfield is now known for, and perhaps the very tangible repercussions he faced will give some support to women still fighting for their rightful status at the operating table.