Don Trunkey was a trailblazing pioneer for patient care, trauma management and educating multiple levels of trainees in surgical management. I first had the pleasure of meeting Don in the mid 1970s when I was directing EMS for Boston and Boston City Hospital.
He came and site visited the Trauma Center and insisted on spending time observing the Emergency Medical System both in the prehospital phase as well as in the Trauma Center.
This was a particularly challenging time since paramedics and emergency prehospital care were in their infancy. He was so helpful both in concept and in detail as to how the system could be improved. He took the time to meet everyone and was particularly kind to me in those early days. He was particularly helpful in persuading the Commissioner of Health and Hospitals on the importance of physician led medical direction and medical control of the system.
The very next year he invited me to join the Committee on Trauma and paired me with Norman McSwain. His ability to include everyone both professionally and socially had an indelible effect on me. His straightforward no nonsense attitude coupled with an incredible sense of humor and the willingness to include young surgeons in the decision making process has stayed with me forever.
He was always open to ideas and encouraged younger people to present their ideas and concepts at the national level. As you can imagine this was intimidating for a young surgeon to be asked to present somewhat new and different ideas before the icons of trauma surgery. He would always give encouragement and constructive criticism which improved the concept and ultimately it’s implementation.
He taught me the importance of knowing every single detail of a new initiative or program. Then being prepared to fearlessly defend it with the use of data and good humor.
He championed so many positive concepts that have dramatically improved trauma care in the United States and in the world.
The ATLS program, trauma center verification, trauma system implementation, modernization of battlefield care, the inclusion of younger people on on numerous trauma committees which allowed them to learn the process and spend a lifetime in trauma care.
I think his ultimately legacy was that he always wanted to do the best thing for the patient and his willingness to be a fearless mentor for countless younger surgeons myself included. I will miss his leadership and friendship terribly.
Lenworth Jacobs MD, MPH, FACS
2 thoughts on “Fearless Mentor by Lenworth Jacobs MD, MPH, FACS”
Don Trunkey is the trauma icon for many of us who began our careers in the 70’s. He blazed a path for us and pointed the way to improve the care of the injured by developing hospital standards and integrating those standards with trauma systems. His legacy lives on every single day at the bedside.
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