American College of Surgeons president receives honorary degree



TUSKEGEE, Ala. (September 23, 2011)  — Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon conferred an honorary degree on Dr. L.D. Britt on Thursday at the 12th Annual Biomedical Research Symposium at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. Britt is the president of the American College of Surgeons and serves as the chair of the Department of Surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School. As Eastern Virginia’s Brickhouse professor, he is also the first black person in the U.S. to have an endowed chair in surgery. Rochon presented Britt with a doctor of Humane Letters at the symposium, which was held Thursday through today.

“Welcome to a new member of the Tuskegee family,” Rochon said.

After giving thanks for the honor, Britt said he felt a special connection to Tuskegee because he graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Suffolk, Va.

“I have an obligation to Tuskegee and I’m glad I’m here,” Britt said.

Hosted by Tuskegee’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health, the symposium highlighted health issues that disproportionately affect human health. This year’s theme was “Passion and Compassion in Eliminating Health Disparities.” Tsegaye Habtemariam, dean of the college, said the theme underscores the importance of combining the power of emotion and biomedical science, “while still putting forth the best scientific research possible to relieve the suffering of so many around the world.”

Symposium sessions covered topics such as HIV/AIDS research, new advances and old disparities in cancer treatment, strategies to decrease obesity and stress management. Britt, one of the keynote speakers for Thursday’s session, said one of the greatest health risks in the 21st century is health care disparities.

Britt outlined the challenges facing American medical care: population growth, diminished resources, increased unemployment, lack of information technology use, underserved communities, workforce shortages and a large number of aging Americans. He said access and quality are the two most important variables in whether a patient will receive adequate medical care and income is the key to controlling those variables.

“Just being in a high income group will allow you to live six to seven years longer,” he explained. 

Britt said American health care cannot continue on its present path and be sustainable. He suggested several countermeasures such as reduction of wasteful health care spending, reform of medical liability, promotion of proven health care and wider use of information technology. He highlighted the need for greater use of information technology with a story about a visit to a hotel and using the honor bar in his room.

“When I checked out, they knew exactly what I’d taken. There’s more technology in that hotel room than they have in hospitals,” he explained. “We have the technology; we just don’t use it.”

Despite the disparities and shortcomings of the current health care system, Britt said he was optimistic and believed change is on the way. However, using a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., he warned the audience to remain committed to health care reform and reducing disparities.

“Our lives begin to end when we walk away from things that matter,” Britt quoted. “So, we can’t walk away from this.”

Britt speaks at the 12th Annual Biomedical Research Symposium at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on Thursday.






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