Is Shock Trauma Center Overrated?

October 09, 1992

Yes.

That, in a nutshell, is the answer to the headlined question. The Maryland Shock Trauma Center is no longer the best in its field. It isn't even near the middle of the list. It's near the bottom. Still, the center's reputation is so ingrained that even longtime physicians at Shock Trauma recite the old mantra. But chanting "We're No. 1" doesn't make it so.

It took an outsider to uncover the truth. Dr. Kimball I. Maull has ridden out a fierce six months of stormy controversy as the new director of the trauma center, all the while holding to his conviction that changes had to be made to return the facility to greatness.

Now there is objective proof that Dr. Maull knew what he was talking about. An independent analysis comparing the Maryland center's survival rates to those of 70 other trauma centers across the United States concluded our center ranks near the bottom. Even taking into account alleged methodological flaws, Shock Trauma would fall below national norms. That is clearly unacceptable.

This study ought to end the controversy over shaking things up at Shock Trauma. Yes, it is still a life-saving facility for thousands of patients each year. It is Maryland's primary trauma center. But it is not nearly as good as its yellowed press clippings would lead us to believe.

Coming to Maryland from a well-regarded trauma center in Tennessee, Dr. Maull recognized many of these weaknesses. He has not hesitated to seek remedies, which did not endear him to old-timers at the center comfortable doing things as they'd been handled for years.

But one thing is for certain in today's high-tech world of medicine: Change is inevitable. That is to the patient's and the doctor's benefit. Now that we know for a fact Shock Trauma needs fixing, we can get on with patching up the patient and getting him back on his feet in far better shape than in the past. Our trauma center was once on the cutting edge of emergency medical treatment. It was a pioneer in the field. It can be No. 1 once again.

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