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Leading surgeon urges civilian trauma healthcare to follow military’s lead

The Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2010

War has often spurred medical advances: immunization against tetanus during World War I, the perfection of penicillin during World War II, and more.

Now a leading San Diego physician wants the medical and political establishments in the United States to improve trauma care for civilians by adopting a system akin to that developed by the U.S. military to treat battlefield casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Trauma continues to be "a disease for which we have a cure," said Dr. A. Brent Eastman.

Still, for people under age 45, trauma-related injuries are the leading cause of death in the United States. Death rates are highest in rural areas with a paucity of trauma surgeons and inadequate air transportation, Eastman said.

In a detailed speech last year to a convention of surgeons, and in an article in the August edition of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, Eastman suggests that the U.S. look to the military's success in reducing the death rate from wounds inflicted in battle.

The same can be done for trauma patients in the United States, Eastman said, but not if the nation's patchwork system for trauma care remains "fragmented, overwhelmed and underfunded."