Maull's reign ends at Shock Trauma Chief steps down after 13 months

March 02, 1993|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Staff Writer

Dr. Kimball I. Maull announced his resignation yesterday as the state's trauma chief, saying he was the latest casualty in a political atmosphere that has long poisoned the University of Maryland Medical System.

Often seen as an abrasive administrator, Dr. Maull dismissed criticism that he could have survived the treacherous terrain if he had handled the competing egos of doctors, legislators and administrators with greater sensitivity and finesse.

"Many times the political interests and the best interests of the patient are not the same," said Dr. Maull, 50, whose tenure lasted only 13 months. "When defending the interests of the patient, to be criticized as a poor politician is a compliment of the highest order."

His comment drew applause from several dozen nurses, laboratory workers and other trauma employees who packed a news briefing at Dunning Hall, an administrative building next to the trauma center.

Dr. Maull was, at times, tearful when discussing his sadness in leaving the trauma center.

Forming a colorful backdrop was a patchwork quilt given to him by his former employees at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he had headed the trauma service. Turning to the quilt at one point, he asked rhetorically whether an arrogant, uncompromising leader could command such affection from his staff.

He seemed perfectly composed when lashing out at Dr. Morton I. Rapoport, president of the university medical system, who had warned him a week ago that he would be fired if he didn't resign. Dr. Rapoport urged him to resign just days after several orthopedic surgeons threatened to resign over disagreements with Dr. Maull.

"The tragedy, of course, is that we were virtually on the brink of a new day at Shock Trauma, but Dr. Rapoport felt it was going to be too damned expensive," Dr. Maull said. "Do not underestimate the power and influence of Dr. Morton Rapoport."

Without elaborating on how much money was at stake, Dr. Maull said Dr. Rapoport blocked his plans to hire Richard Judd, an authority on emergency field operations from Connecticut, to serve as his executive director.

He also said a distinguished surgeon from New York who was close to accepting a position at Shock Trauma backed away when he learned of the contentious atmosphere.

Dr. Maull bitterly rejected criticism by Dr. Rapoport and Dr. Errol Reese, president of the University of Maryland at Baltimore, that he had "failed to continuously improve the delivery of emergency services in this state."

The words appeared in a recent letter to the university Board of Regents, in which the two recommended that Dr. Maull be fired.

But yesterday, Dr. Maull recited a litany of accomplishments, many of them involving his efforts to upgrade the skills of ambulance crews. For example, he said, Baltimore is no longer the only major city in the United States where rescue personnel do not practice endotracheal intubation, a state-of-the-art method of saving patients who have stopped breathing.

Dr. Rapoport, who did not attend the briefing, declined to comment.

"He has decided to take the high road and not respond to Dr. Maull's criticism," said a spokeswoman, Joan Shnipper.

Dr. Maull said he forwarded his resignation late Sunday night to the University of Maryland Board of Regents, making it effective at midnight. He was the director of the Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Services Systems, which includes the Maryland Shock Trauma Center and the statewide emergency medical network.

While he quit that post, Dr. Maull said he remains a tenured professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

He joked that he would take several days off to hang a towel rack, get a haircut and let his anger subside. After that, he plans to contact Dr. Anthony L. Imbembo, chairman of surgery, to ask if he could "be of any service."

Dr. Maull, however, said he could not speculate on what teaching or surgical responsibilities he might have at the medical school or its teaching hospital.

"He won't have any role at the hospital," said Joan Shnipper, a spokeswoman for Dr. Rapoport. "Dr. Maull never operated since he came here."

Dr. Maull said he had not negotiated a severance package, and he did not say what portion of his salary he might retain as a tenured professor. He collected about $350,000 annually, but only part of that came from the medical school.

Meanwhile, medical system officials announced the appointment of John W. Ashworth III as Dr. Maull's interim replacement. Mr. Ashworth is vice president of strategic planning for the medical system but worked in the trauma center for 18 years before that.

He rose through the lower administrative ranks to become the executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems.

Many observers recall him as the protege of the late Dr. R. Adams Cowley, the founder and guiding spirit of Shock Trauma.

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