Proud of First Citizen

Published 9:07 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Suffolk First Citizen award is intended to recognize “an outstanding individual who best exemplifies the spirit of citizenship and who has shown significant leadership through his or her time, talents and efforts in order to make Suffolk a better place to live.”

Many fine people have met that description and been duly recognized throughout the years since the award was instituted. The tradition continued with the fête that happened Thursday at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts for the 60th anniversary of the award.

Dr. L.D. Britt was honored with a reception, video presentation and multiple standing ovations from a sellout crowd at the Center. It’s merely the latest of many honors he has had in his quite accomplished life, but we daresay it is one of the most meaningful to this native son.

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Dr. Britt grew up in Suffolk, and as a child he witnessed disparities in health care that caused his family to wait endless hours at the doctor’s office waiting to be seen. He later went on to specialize in surgery after graduating from the University of Virginia and Harvard Medical School, and he has devoted much of his career to efforts to make health care more accessible to people of color, rural populations and those who are disadvantaged.

One of those efforts — and evidence that he still values his hometown of Suffolk — is that he continues to see patients in Suffolk every Tuesday. These patients do not have to pay if they can’t, and Dr. Britt has worked out with Eastern Virginia Medical School that he will be able to continue to do this.

Dr. Britt has traveled the world, spoke at numerous conferences, been lauded innumerable times and served on enough committees, boards and medical organizations to fill reams of paper. He was the first African American in the country to have an endowed chair in surgery, is the author of textbooks in surgery and is the recipient of the nation’s highest teaching award in medicine.

But when it gets right down to it, Suffolk is still home for him. We could not be prouder to say that he’s a citizen of Suffolk, and we are so glad he was honored by the Rotary Clubs of Suffolk and North Suffolk as this year’s First Citizen.