There’s a new head at the helm of Temple University’s Department of Surgery.
Effective July 16, Dr. Selwyn O. Rogers Jr. will begin his new post as Temple University Health System’s surgeon-in-chief, professor and chair of surgery at Temple’s School of Medicine.
Rogers currently serves as associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Trauma and Burn and Surgical Critical Care at Harvard-affiliate Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass.
In his new role, Rogers will lead the surgery department’s efforts in enhancing the patient-care experience, expanding surgical programs and ensuring quality outcomes within a patient-centered environment of care.
He’s also charged with recruiting faculty, developing improved business operations and establishing a research program that distinguishes Temple Surgery’s efforts at a national level.
“I have been called here by forces beyond me,” Rogers says of his move to Temple.
“I don’t think a hospital should be defined by the walls of the building and I am hoping with the help of many we can redefine what a hospital is. A hospital is not a place of sickness, but it should be a beacon of wellness. So one of the things a hospital should engage in is looking beyond the patching of bones and the closing of blood vessels, and addressing social determinants of disease, poverty, homelessness and helplessness,” says Rogers, who is a native of the U.S Virgin Islands.
Rogers succeeds Dr. John M. Daly, who is serving as interim chair of Surgery until Rogers starts his new post.
Rogers views Temple as an institution with a wealth of opportunity.
“There is incredible opportunity here. Being in North Philly is not a disadvantage. It’s a unique opportunity to change the dialogue of how can a hospital aggressively partner with the community that we serve, to not only help improve health but to be a model for what the rest of the country can do,” he says.
Hospitals often have campaigns centered on stopping hospital-acquired infections. With Philadelphia’s high rate of homicides, Rogers wonders why there aren’t campaigns based on saving the lives of young men.
“Why don’t we have a campaign that we don’t want another dead kid?” questions Rogers, who views violence as a health problem.
Rogers represents the appointment of Temple’s first Black chair of surgery. According to the National Medical Association, there are eight other African Americans who chair surgical departments at academic medical centers.
Dr. Donald Parks, assistant dean, Minority Affairs, Temple School of Medicine, regards Rogers’ appointment as a big deal for the institution.
“I’m ecstatic because I think it’s a very big deal for Philadelphia medicine. It’s transformative because it’s going put us on the map,” Parks said, noting that Rogers’ appointment has already generated buzz among the city’s medical community.
As a member of the search committee, Parks interviewed about 10 candidates for the position of chair of surgical department.
He noted that Rogers’ appointment is a part of the overall changes being made at the Temple School of Medicine.
Parks said Temple is located in one of five zip codes identified by the U.S. Census as having the highest rates of diabetes and obesity. With that in mind, Parks says it’s important that Temple provides its patients with superior academic physicians.
“I think that the university is committed to making Temple of the key institutions in the city,” Parks added.
As Temple’s chief of surgery, Rogers will lead a department with eight specialty divisions: abdominal organ transplantation, cardiothoracic surgery, colorectal surgery, general surgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, surgical oncology, trauma/surgical care and vascular surgery.
Becoming a physician was not a part of Rogers’ initial career path. While attending Central High School in St. Croix, Rogers aspired to become a biology teacher.
Rogers started out by majoring in biology at Harvard College with the intention of returning to St. Croix to teach. However he ended up switching gears to study medicine.
This led him to pursue a career that allowed him to blend a fascination for surgery with an interest in research.
After completing his undergraduate education at Harvard, Rogers earned his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1991, after which he completed his general surgery residency, surgical critical-care fellowship, and a research fellowship in surgical oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He subsequently earned a master’s degree in public health from Vanderbilt University, while also serving as assistant professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical School and Meharry Medical College.
In 2001, Rogers joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and in 2003 he assumed leadership of the Section of Trauma, Burn and Surgical Critical Care Section at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
From 2005 to 2008, he developed and directed the Center for Surgery and Public Health, a joint program of Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health. The center seeks to illuminate issues such as the causes of medical errors, the nature of racial/ethnic disparities in healthcare and the role of surgery to strengthen health systems.
Rogers has published research articles relating to health care disparities, the impact of race/ethnicity on surgical outcomes and quality improvement in surgery. In 2004, Rogers wrote an article that showed the disparity of Blacks dying disproportionately from colon cancer could be eliminated if everyone had equal access to medical care.
Throughout his career, Rogers has encountered patients who were shocked when they met him for the first time, because they weren’t expecting an African-American physician.
“I don’t fit what people expect me to be. I have had more than my share of the quizzical look,” says Rogers, who is the father of three sons.
Rogers plans to focus on diversifying Temple’s Department of Surgery.
“One of the things that I am going to work on is diversifying the department, not because it’s a good thing, but because it will lead to excellence,” says Rogers.
Rogers is the recipient of the Matson Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Dennis Thomson Leadership and Compassionate Care Award from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harold Amos Faculty Diversity Award from Harvard Medical School.
He is a member of various professional organizations including the American College of Surgeons, the Association for Academic Surgery, the Society of Black Academic Surgeons, the National Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma and the Society of University Surgeons. He also serves on the Study Section of the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality.