It is with sadness that we report the passing of one of Trauma Surgery’s greatest icons, Dr. Donald D. Trunkey. Dr. Trunkey served as the Chair of the ACS Committee on Trauma from 1982-1986 and as President of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma 1986-1987. In 1976, Dr. Trunkey led the COT’s efforts to publish the Optimal Hospital Resources for the Care of the Seriously Injured- the first document aimed at defining and developing trauma centers and trauma systems. Dr. Trunkey, MD, FACS was a pioneer in trauma system development, publishing seminal work on the impact of trauma systems development on preventable death. A critical moment in Dr. Trunkey’s career was when he published a paper in 1979 on death rates of trauma patients in the more rural Orange County, California compared to those in San Francisco County. It was one of the earliest, most persuasive pieces of evidence on the effectiveness of trauma centers. His message was unwavering: injured patients deserve the best trauma care available, and the best care includes an organized trauma system.
Dr. Trunkey grew up in rural Eastern Washington and was an alumni of the University of Washington Medical School. He did a rotating internship at the University of Oregon and then served in the US Army from 1964-1966. He completed his surgical training at UCSF and became a faulty member in 1972. He was Chief of the Burn Center at UCSF and had established a laboratory to study mechanisms of shock at the cellular level. In 1986, he was recruited back to Oregon Health Science University where he served as the Mackenzie Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery from 1986 – 2001.
Five years into his term as Chair, Dr. Trunkey was activated from reserve status to active military to serve in the first Gulf War in 1991. He was stationed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He dealt with a number of operational and cultural obstacles that prompted him to publish a commentary in the March 1993 edition of Archives of Surgery called “Lessons Learned.” This document paved the way for how the U.S. Department of Defense trains its trauma personnel today.
In 2008, he received the King Faisal prize in medicine for his research improving trauma care. He has many other awards including Distinguished Service Award of the American College of Surgeons, Washington State University College of Science Distinguished Alumnus Award, Barry Goldwater Service Award, International Society of Surgery Prize, Honorary Membership of the British Association for Accident and Emergency Medicine and Honorary Fellowships of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of England, Ireland, Edinburgh, Glasgow, South Africa and Brazil, Medal of the Royal College of Medicine of England and Honorary Professorship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. In 1989, he delivered the Scudder Oration on Trauma entitled, “What’s Wrong with Trauma Care?”. In 2018, he received the Icons in Surgery award from the American College of Surgeons.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVN0laPGF24&feature=youtu.be
Above all, Dr. Trunkey is remembered for his kindness, support, and mentorship to an entire generation of trauma surgeons. We offer his wife Jane and their 2 children and grandchildren our heartfelt condolences.