Surgeon-in-Chief of Howard University Hospital Dr. Edward Cornwell.

D.C. native and Surgeon-in-Chief of Howard University Hospital Dr. Edward Cornwell, said, during his documentary, that he often “feels like a medic in an unwinnable war.”

“Transcending Surgeon,” is a half-hour documentary film that provides viewers with insight into the personal and professional life of Cornwell, one of the top surgeons in the United States.

Cornwell, 57, graduated from Howard University School of Medicine in 1982 and became Surgeon-in-Chief in 2008 of Howard University, which is just a few miles from where he grew up, according to Transcending Surgeon’s Facebook page created Nov. 2013.

“As an African American, I find that there are too many negative stories that focus on the failures and struggles of people who look like me, leaving a void of stories that reflect the good values of African-American people,” Dr. Sam Hampton, director of “Transcending Surgeon” told the AFRO Nov. 4. “I wanted to fill that void with a unique story about African American achievement.”

Those who have seen the film call it inspiring. Lee Quinby, 67, a retired filmmaker, saw the film at the New York American Black Film Festival in June 2014, where it was one of three finalists.

“In showing how important family, education, and mentors were in Dr. Cornwell’s life, the film highlights the kind of achievement that celebrates collective effort while applauding individual hard work and dedication,” Quinby said.

Dr. Sam Hampton, director of “Transcending Surgeon”.

The film explores Cornwell’s upbringing, education, mentors and other guiding forces behind his successful career. It also delves into issues facing the urban African American community – poverty, lack of education and violence. The “unwinnable war” he said is violence and homicide in the young African American community.

“Gunshot violence in America, perpetrators and victims, are overwhelmingly male, disproportionately of color and rarely over the age of 40,” Cornwell told producers in the documentary.

Cornwell, whose father also graduated from Howard University School of Medicine in 1954 and his wife in 1986, was Chief of Trauma for 10 years at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore before returning to D.C.

National news began covering the high homicide rates in Baltimore, attracting people like Oprah and the Today Show in 2000. Cornwell said he had a unique opportunity to show urban youth the consequences of gun violence; so he did, walking them through the trauma unit at Johns Hopkins to see it themselves, and hopefully cut and ultimately end the violence.

“As a trauma surgeon, he sees a lot of young African American males who are victims of gunshots,” Hampton said.” “He’s seen kids come in with bullet holes then four weeks later he sees the same kid in the trauma unit. This cycle of violence is a very real thing.”

Hampton is the co-founder of Docs In Progress, a nonprofit for emerging documentary filmmakers. He is also an educational consultant, teacher, father and husband. His time is precious but when he met Cornwell, he found him “to be an absolutely fascinating human being” and knew he had to set aside time to create a documentary about his life, he told the AFRO Oct. 15.

“The hardest part was getting permission to bring cameras into the hospital because of all the privacy issues,” Hampton said. “Once we figured that out we got started right away and spent a lot of time with not only him but medical students and resident surgeons at Howard University Hospital.”

“Transcending Surgeon” has already played at more than 9 film festivals across the country this year, including D.C. on Oct. 19, at the Utopia Film Festival on Oct. 24 in Greenbelt, Md. and the Alexandria Film Festival on Nov. 7 in Alexandria, Va.

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