While many people carefully research and review which doctors they choose to see for conditions such as cancer and heart disease, most people rarely think about the doctors and nurses that will care for them after a sudden injury brings them to a hospital trauma bay.
Over the last two months, unfortunate events such as the bombings at the Boston Marathon and the recent building collapse in Center City have brought into the focus the critical role that hospital trauma providers play in evaluating and treating patients after catastrophic events.
In the hours and days after the bombings in Boston, Penn Medicine trauma surgeons were tapped by the news media to speak about the type of injuries that can result from explosions and bombings and how hospitals prepare for these types of cases.
Niels Martin, MD, assistant professor of Surgery, Division of Traumatology, Surgical Critical Care, and Emergency Surgery, told CBS 3 “There are a compilation of injuries you will see after a blast. Injuries can include burns, fractures, ruptured ear drums, and wounds from flying debris. The injuries most commonly seen are head injuries, followed by injuries from that primary blast wave where you will see injuries to the lungs and the chest cavity itself.”
Steven R. Allen, MD, assistant professor of Surgery in the Division told 6ABC that the quick work by marathon medical staff, EMS crews, and hospital staff in Boston played a crucial role in saving the lives of those who were injured in the blasts. He said while you can never be fully prepared for everything, the disaster drills that are practiced in major cities across the country, including Philadelphia, help. “The goal is to have an awareness that will at least allow you to be in a state of mind where you can tackle some of these issues. In watching the news reports, I think once everyone realized what happened, they shifted into an amazing state of mind and the response was remarkable.”
The day of the building collapse in Center City Philadelphia two weeks ago, Patrick Kim, MD, Trauma Program Director at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), along with Elizabeth Datner, MD, associate professor of Emergency Medicine, briefed reporters on the injuries that survivors were experiencing and what kind of recovery they could face. In the days that followed, Dr. Kim also spoke with reporters in another press briefing about the ongoing care that HUP provided to the collapse patients.
In total, Penn Medicine responded to hundreds of media requests for more information on the collapse victims and trauma doctors participated in three separate press briefings to best inform the public about the care these victims received.
In addition to the immediate response to these tragic events, trauma faculty at Penn are devoted to continuing research into the area of injury science to help better evaluate and treat trauma patients when they need medical help. At a recent conference, faculty from the Division of Traumatology, Surgical Critical Care, and Emergency Surgery, and invited speakers from several other departments, divisions and institutes from across Penn Medicine, discussed a variety of topics and groundbreaking research in the fields of emergency medicine, trauma and surgical critical care.
“Trauma remains the leading cause of death and disability for people under the age of 40, yet there is very little research directed toward understanding the pathophysiology of injury and the development of new resuscitation strategies,” said conference organizer Carrie Sims, MD, MS, assistant professor of Surgery. “Symposiums such as the injury research conference allows a variety of different investigators with very different approaches to come together - in the process they realize that the research they are doing investigating diabetes, or platelet dysfunction, or immune function, also plays a part in understanding how the body responds and recovers from injury.”
Sims hopes that bringing together some of the brightest minds on the Penn's campus to discuss the science of injury opens the doors for new research collaborations that may one day lead to new therapies that save lives and improve patient outcomes.
Whether it’s through direct patient care during a crisis or facilitating bench-to-bedside research, Penn trauma faculty are dedicated to the elimination of needless death and disability from injury and bringing trauma care into focus.