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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

Focusing on better burn care

Photo of check presentation

The Firefighters Burn Institute present a $1 million check to Claire Pomeroy, Vice Chancellor of Human Health Sciences and Dean, UC Davis School of Medicine,  for the UC Davis Regional Burn Center. 

Imagine wearing long-sleeved shirts when Sacramento temperatures reach triple digits. It sounds uncomfortable, but that's just what Duane Wright did for nine years.

Burned over 40 percent of his body on the job as a California Department of Forestry firefighter, Wright endured years of insecurity over the resulting scars mapping his arms. It was only after a combination of expert burn care at the UC Davis Regional Burn Center and emotional support provided by the Firefighters Burn Institute (FFBI) that he found the confidence to wear short sleeves.

Wright is among the hundreds of burn survivors attending the Phoenix Society's 2006 World Burn Congress in Sacramento. The event, hosted by the UC Davis Regional Burn Center, Shriner's Hospital for Children Northern California, the Firefighter's Burn Institute and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, offers emotional support and education on recovering from burns.

UC Davis' burn center, where Wright was treated, was established in 1972 after a devastating plane crash at a Sacramento ice cream parlor killed 22 people and severely burned dozens more. That tragedy identified a critical need for specialized burn care. Sacramento Fire Department captain Cliff Haskell mobilized community firefighters to establish a specialized burn unit with UC Davis Medical Center. Haskell launched a fund-raising effort to secure funding for the unit, and the non-profit Firefighters Burn Institute was created.

Thirty years later, FFBI is still partnering with UC Davis to provide the most up-to-date, specialized care for burn patients. The institute donated $1 million to help build a new Regional Burn Center within UC Davis’ new Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion. The dollar-by-dollar “Fill-the-Boot for Burns” campaign, in which firefighters ask drivers at regional intersections for donations to support burn recovery programs, contributed significantly to the donation to the medical center. Firefighters and staff also have raised money through special events and payroll deductions. FFBI has committed to raising an additional $1 million.

The new 9,000 square foot burn unit doubles the current space, and will consolidate burn services, such as physical and occupational therapies, in the unit. The pavilion is scheduled to open in 2008.

The UC Davis Regional Burn Center is one of only two burn units in Northern California, and one of only 42 nationwide verified and certified by the American Burn Association. Specialists at UC Davis research and develop model treatments to improve burn care and recovery. Current research focuses on improving wound healing, detecting early signs of scar formation and improving transfusion rates.

“The efforts of the Firefighters Burn Institute — and countless Northern California firefighters and community members — will help us forge vital discoveries in burn care and treat an even greater number of critically injured patients,” said David Greenhalgh, chief and professor of burn surgery at UC Davis.

“FFBI is dedicated to assuring that the best possible burn treatment and recovery programs are available in Northern and Central California,” said Brian Rice, president of the Firefighters Burn Institute's board of directors and fire captain at Sacramento Metro Fire Department.

That's something to which burn survivor Wright can attest. It was within the comfort zone of the institute's retreat for burn survivors that he first rolled up his sleeves.