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Health Journalism 2011: Panelists share stories from the frontlines of military trauma care

If the audience wasn't fully awake yet for the morning session entitled "Lessons of war: Advances in medical science and technique," the pictures of soldiers' blast injuries – one of them extending from the back to the front of a leg-should have captured their attention.

 

Michael S. Weingarten, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.S., professor of surgery and chief of vascular surgery at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, was explaining how the military transports critically injured patients across continents while, at home, he worries about moving a patient downstairs a few flights.

There is a lesson in all of this for trauma care in the U.S. Only about 10 percent of Americans in rural areas live within 45 minutes of a trauma center. And nationwide, hospitals are dealing with surgeon shortages. "The problem will be exacerbated," Weingarten said. By 2015, it is estimated that there will be only 21.6 surgeons per 100,000 people by 2015.

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