Robert S. D. Higgins, MD, MSHA
The Society of University Surgeons (SUS) created the prestigious Trailblazer Award (TA) in 2020 to recognize trailblazing individuals who have broken new ground in surgical research and innovative surgical thought processes. The inaugural TA winner was Dr. George P. Yang, a former SUS President who received the award for his tireless work in promoting Asians in academic surgery and establishing the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons.
In 2023, the SUS bestowed the Trailblazer Award upon Dr. Robert S. D. Higgins, the esteemed President of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Higgins emerged victorious from a highly competitive pool of nominees, earning the distinction based on the recommendation of his respected peers. During the ceremony, Dr. Danny Chu, SUS Secretary, introduced Dr. Higgins and listed his numerous trailblazing “firsts,” including being the first Black President of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the first Black Chair of Surgery at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (one of the oldest surgical training institutions in the U.S.), and the first Black President of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. These groundbreaking achievements undoubtedly made him a deserving recipient of the award.
During his acceptance speech, Dr. Higgins captivated the audience with his personal anecdotes and heartfelt gratitude. He reminisced about his mother’s sacrifices, which provided him with the chance to attend the best universities in the country and paved the way for his trailblazing accomplishments. The audience was moved by his inspiring words, which served as a testament to the transformative power of hard work and perseverance.