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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

UC Davis surgeons experience military trauma care

Military trauma surgery © UC Regents
Trauma surgeon Lynette Scherer (far right) worked alongside military surgeons in repairing soldiers’ battlefield injuries.

Posted Jan. 5, 2011

UC Davis faculty physicians David Dawson and Lynette Scherer traveled in October to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and to Bagram Airfield and Kandahar in Afghanistan, where — alongside military surgeons — they treated soldiers injured during active duty.

As the UC Davis chief of trauma and emergency surgery, Scherer is responsible for training surgeons in emergency surgical care. When serving as the residency program director, she was instrumental in merging the general surgery residency programs at UC Davis Medical Center and David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base, and she has facilitated residency rotations and faculty integrations between the two hospitals. The primary purpose of her trip was to gain firsthand understanding of military trauma surgery and critical care support.

Dawson, a UC Davis professor of vascular and endovascular surgery who also is a lieutenant colonel in the USAF Reserves assigned to David Grant, went along as a UC Davis Health System liaison to the Air Force. He and Scherer traveled with three other surgeons.

Dr. David Dawson © UC Regents“Gaining perspective on the strengths and needs of the medical services of the Department of Defense offers us opportunities to engage with them in new and mutually beneficial ways.”
— David Dawson

“Lynette has a very important job,” said Dawson, referring to her training duties. “This trip gave her the chance to ‘walk in the boots’ of the surgeons she teaches. There are cultural distinctions between military and civilian surgical care, and this experience will help her accommodate both.”

Drs. Scherer and Dawson with military surgeons © UC Regents
From left to right are Col. Warren Dorlac. associate professor of surgery at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center; Ron Maier, chief of surgery at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle; Lynette Scherer; David Dawson; and Don Trunkey, trauma and vascular surgeon at Oregon Health and Science University

The team traveled to Afghanistan after a few days at Landstuhl, where they worked in the large hospital where all U.S. soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are first transported from the war zone. The smaller hospital at Bagram serves as the central hub of the military trauma-care system in Afghanistan, where surgeons stabilize patients before they are flown via specially configured military aircraft — “ICUs in the air,” as Dawson calls them — to Landstuhl.

“It was an extraordinary opportunity as a civilian surgeon to get an experience like this,” said Scherer. “It was helpful to actually see the hurdles facing the surgeons we train and will help me create better and more meaningful experiences for them at UC Davis.”

Dawson sees the trip as an important step in expanding the training partnership between UC Davis and the USAF.

“Gaining perspective on the strengths and needs of the medical services of the Department of Defense offers us opportunities to engage with them in new and mutually beneficial ways,” said Dawson, who is leading efforts to establish a vascular surgery residency with David Grant and UC Davis.