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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

No bones about it, Chapman roots for UC Davis

Photo of artist rendering of new pavilion
Artist rendering of new Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion entryway.

UC Davis orthopaedic trauma surgeon Michael W. Chapman may have stowed his scalpel, but that is about as far as his retirement goes. These days, Chapman is one of UC Davis' biggest boosters.

He recently completed two years as chair of the board of trustees for the UC Davis Foundation, the fundraising arm for the campus. He is now leading the effort to raise $20 million for UC Davis Health System's new Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion.

"As a university hospital, we are geared up to care for the most complex cases," says Chapman, former chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and chief of the Orthopaedic Trauma Service and now professor emeritus.

"This kind of expertise is something that is not available to the vast majority of Californians," he says. "The need to keep our facilities and technology up to date is critical in delivering the complex care people in the region depend upon."

New trauma center

The pavilion, expected to be completed in 2010, will provide UC Davis' surgery, trauma, emergency and burn services with new operating rooms, patient rooms and state-of-the-art technology, enabling them to deliver the most advanced care. To honor Chapman's role in founding the center, the new trauma facility will bear his name — the Michael Chapman Trauma Center.

When Chapman talks about the value that a top-notch facility can bring to the region, it is not idle chatter. He and his wife, Betty, have pledged $1 million of their own money to help fund the trauma center in the new pavilion.

"UC Davis has the only Level 1 trauma center in inland Northern California, and our gift further develops this invaluable resource for the community," he says.

An early career shift

Although Chapman spent nearly 30 years as an orthopaedic trauma surgeon, he didn't start out with that in mind.

"When I finished my orthopaedic surgical training in 1967, trauma surgery did not exist as a specialty," he says. "I was actually planning to specialize in artificial joints."

By the middle 1970s, trauma became an exciting and fulfilling specialty, he says. "Lives were being saved" due to improved operating techniques and resuscitation efforts.

Chapman says the new techniques allowed for internal repairs to bones, such as the use of rods in the center of the long bones, so that surgeons could more quickly mobilize patients to aid in the healing process.

After serving in Europe during the Vietnam War, Chapman came to California to join then-chief of surgery F. William Blaisdell at San Francisco General Hospital. Blaisdell is widely considered the father of trauma surgery.

Chapman soon became quite active in promoting trauma care. He was one of three founders of what was then called the Orthopaedic Trauma Hospital Association. Today, it is known as the Orthopaedic Trauma Association and works to advance trauma care through research and education. He served as the organization's second president.

Photo of artist rending of new pavilion lobby area
Artist rendering of new Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion lobby area.

Chapman later followed Blaisdell, as did a number of other physicians, to Sacramento, where, together, they launched the trauma program at UC Davis. The program is credited with substantially lowering the preventable death rate in Sacramento County. Today, UC Davis maintains a rate of less than 1 percent.

"UC Davis is definitely one of the pioneers in treating trauma," Chapman says.

Chapman contributed to that legacy. He is the author of more than 167 publications, including the four-volume Chapman's Orthopaedic Surgery, regarded as a definitive source on orthopaedic surgery. His extensive research focused on biomechanics, bone-graft substitutes and clinical treatment of trauma and nonunions.

Today, he is focused on supporting the public education system that he says has been so good to him and his wife.

"Our lives are inextricably bound to the university. Everything we have today is due to the fact that we were able to go to a public university at a low cost," Chapman says.

It is only right that others have the same opportunity, he adds.

Unfortunately, a high cost of living and increasing tuition make it difficult for potential students and faculty to be part of UC Davis, he says.

So, while he pushes hard to raise money for the new surgery and trauma center, he advocates equally hard for scholarship support for students and endowments to attract the best faculty.

It's a cause from which everyone can benefit, Chapman says. "The UC system is what helps make California such a dynamic state."