Police Commissioner Edward Caban swore in on Monday Dr. Lynn O’Connor as a new NYPD surgeon, the first Black woman to hold the role in 170 years.
Top cop Caban held onto the police shield as O’Connor raised her right arm during the ceremony inside of the commissioner’s office. Family and friends watched O’Conner officially become the department’s first black female surgeon in its nearly two century history. She is now one of 35 NYPD surgeons and the seventh female appointed to that position.
“If you look at the number of physicians in the United States, only 5.7% are Black. Studies have shown that when patients are treated with physicians that look like them, or have the same race and ethnicity, their outcomes are better. They get diagnosed earlier, they’re seen quicker, their overall longevity and their survival is just markedly improved,” O’Connor said following the emotional ceremony.
The surgeon will juggle her time at her own practice and at police headquarters where she will evaluate the health of officers and treat members of service who are ill or require hospitalization. O’Connor specializes in colorectal cancer and says she hopes to ensure that cops are properly screened and treated as early as possible for the disease that continues to present itself in younger and younger individuals.
“That’s why this position is important because we have a young force. We’ve got 30-year-olds, 40-year-olds who are coming down, who are being diagnosed with it. And also, the important thing is African Americans, we’re 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and we’re 40% more likely to die from colorectal cancer. So, this initiative is extremely important. In addition to the overall arching, health and wellness benefits, we really need to hone in on this,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor, a lifelong New Yorker, attended Yale and Temple University School of Medicine and also happens to be the cousin of Assembly Member Inez Dickens who was also present for the swearing in ceremony. Dickens gushed over her cousin with pride and admiration for taking on the role, calling her “phenomenal.”
“She worked hard to get where she is. It was not easy, was very difficult for a woman of color,” Dickens charged. “She has been serving communities, particularly of color, to educate them on a severe health problem that impacts so many of us and we die from it because early detection is not given.”
The surgeon said she yearned to take the role after treating many cops in her practice, stating that despite their race or ethnicity, she believes they spend so much time on the job that it leaves them little time for mental and physical healthcare, something she hopes to change with the position.
O’Connor described being the first Black woman to hold the title as an “honor” while also pledging to ensure that she will not be the last Black female in the role. She underscored that when patients of color are afforded the ability to be treated by a doctor of the same race it gives them an extra level of comfort.
O’Connor’s daughter, Danielle Harris, also attended the moment and called her mom a “Superstar.”
“She just really cares about her patients deeply and she takes everything that she goes through home with her as well, so you can tell that she is definitely deeply affected by her patients but wants to do the best for her patients,” Harris said.
Commissioner Caban clasped hands with O’Connor after the swearing in ceremony in a sign of congratulations.