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Suffolk native honored in health building

One of Suffolk’s greats was applauded on Saturday for his long and storied career by friends, family and colleagues.

Dr. L.D. Britt witnessed the unveiling of a plaque at the Health and Human Services building on Hall Avenue on Saturday. The plaque highlights Britt’s many accomplishments in medicine that were applauded by city officials and medical professionals in attendance.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Britt said. “I never expected any signage for me. I really appreciate it.”

Two of the plaques will be displayed at the entrance of the Health and Human Services building to honor his accomplishments in a place that serves his fellow citizens.

“He’s a great man that’s done great things for the medical community,” said Councilman Roger Fawcett. “He’s an icon and a big milestone.”

Britt is a general and acute care surgeon and chair of the Department of Surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. He’s a proud native of Suffolk, where he was valedictorian of his Booker T. Washington High School graduating class.

He left home for the University of Virginia, where he became a member of the Raven Society, the university’s oldest and most prestigious society. He’s also a graduate of both Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health and has also received honorary doctorates conferred by Tuskegee and Norfolk State universities.

He came back to Suffolk two decades after leaving for UVA at the protest of colleagues who said it would terrible for his career. But Britt was not deterred.

“I just wanted to be of value to my family and to my city,” Britt said.

Britt was the first African-American in the nation to hold an endowed chair of surgery and the first African-American professor of surgery in Virginia.

On Oct. 1, 2016, Britt was the first and only EVMS faculty member elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the field of health and medicine with only about 2,000 members.

“It’s like the Hall of Fame in sports,” Britt told the Suffolk News-Herald in 2016. “There’s people that never got in that probably should have been in.”

He’s the executive director of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons and has held leadership positions in many other organizations. He’s been the director of American Board of Surgery, chair of the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons, and president of the American College of Surgeons.

He has also been president of the Southern Surgical, Southeastern Surgical Congress, American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, Halsted Society and Society of Surgical Chairs.

“He works so hard and he’s so selfless,” said Dr. Charlene Britt, his wife. “He’s the definition of what you want your doctor to be.”

Britt has received numerous awards for public service, including the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award and the Colgate Darden Scouter Citizen of the Year Award.

“He has accomplished so much, but those are accomplishments are not what make him,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said. “It’s his heart and his humor. He’s just such a beautiful person, and all of his accomplishments are because of that.”

Britt said he took after Capt. Hernán Cortés when he landed his ships in Veracruz in 1519. Cortés ordered his men to burn all their boats so as to motivate them to victory and remove the possibility of fleeing.

Britt said he had the same sink-or-swim feeling when he came back to Suffolk.

“I knew I was going to win and that I was going to be of value,” he said.