Dr. Clifford H. Turen, traumatologist

He had been director of orthopedic trauma at Maryland Shock Trauma Center

  • Dr. Clifford Turen
Dr. Clifford Turen (Baltimore Sun )
January 26, 2013|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Dr. Clifford H. Turen, an internationally know traumatologist and former chief of orthopedics who had worked at Maryland Shock Trauma Center for two decades, was killed Jan. 13 when the private single-engine plane he was flying crashed in dense fog into trees east of Dover, Del.

The Clarksville resident was 55.

According to published news reports, Dr. Turen was en route from Sandersville, Ga., to Summit Airport in Middletown, Del., in his Piper PA-28a Cherokee, when he made an emergency call to air traffic controllers at Dover Air Force Base.

A witness told The Dover Post that as the plane passed over his house he heard its engine sputtering and finally stop. Authorities who found the wreckage several hours later estimated that it crashed about 7:35 p.m.

The accident remains under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"Doc was a very meticulous man, and the incident that took his life was something that he could not possibly have foreseen in that dense fog. He was an unflappable man," said Walter "Butch" Hendrick, a Hurley, N.Y., pilot and a friend for more than 20 years.

The son of a manufacturer of women's apparel and a registered nurse who later became a homemaker, Clifford Henry Turen was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in Roslyn Heights, N.Y.

After graduating in 1975 from the Wheatley School in East Williston, N.Y., Dr. Turen graduated in 1979 from the Johns Hopkins University.

He earned his medical degree in 1983 from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, and completed both an internship and residency at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

Dr. Turen came to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center as a fellow in 1988, and after completing his fellowship, spent four years in the Navy as chief of the orthopedic trauma service at the Portsmouth Naval Regional Medical Center in Virginia.

After completing active duty, he remained as an active Reservist for the next 23 years, attaining the rank of commander.

Dr. Turen returned to Shock Trauma as a part-time consultant and surgeon from 1990 to 1993. He then remained there full time from 1993 to 2009, when he left to become chief of orthopedics and establish a residency program in orthopedics at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon.

From 1993 to 2005, Dr. Turen was director of the orthopedic traumatology fellowship, which contributed to the education of countless fellows and residents who rotated through Shock Trauma. From 1999 to 2001, he was program director of the University of Maryland Orthopedic Surgery residency program.

He was also chief of orthopedics at Shock Trauma from 2002 to 2005.

"I've known Cliff close to 20 years, and he was one of the premier surgeons that I've ever worked with in orthopedics," said Dr. Andrew N. Pollak, professor and acting head of orthopedics at the University of Maryland Medical School, where he also heads the division of orthopedic traumatology.

"He had wonderful hands and was a very competent technical surgeon," said Dr. Pollak. "Orthopedic trauma is putting bones back together, and sometimes the cases are easy and some difficult, but Cliff always knew what to do."

Dr. Pollak described his colleague and friend as an "outstanding educator."

"Cliff could fix problems others had difficulty with and could teach them how to do it," said Dr. Pollak. "It was easy for him to get along with the staff and operating room staff. He was happiest when he was in the operating room and busy and getting a lot of things accomplished."

He added: "As a person, Cliff was larger than life. He was jovial, intense and extremely hard-working."

Dr. Thomas M. Scalea, professor of trauma surgery and director of the trauma program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is another longtime colleague and friend.

"He was more than an orthopedic surgeon. He was a trauma guy who fixed bones," said Dr. Scalea, who said that Dr. Turen had been an active and influential member of AO North America, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the advancement of patient care for orthopedic patients.

Dr. Turen had held various offices, including serving as a member of its trauma education committee, and had been a trustee of the AO Foundation.

He also chaired dozens of AO courses, which brought him into contact with other orthopedists around the world.

"His effect was international, and he did a huge amount of work for AO. I remember when we were in Colombia and he was teaching about how to fix pelvic fractures," said Dr. Scalea.

"He crystallized the procedure down to three lines. Cliff told them to 'Bind 'em up, fill 'em up, warm 'em up.' What he was doing was teaching holistic trauma care," said Dr. Scalea.

"He could always see the big picture and had the ability to get to the essence of a problem quickly," he said. "He was dedicated, worked hard and always did the right thing."

Dr. Turen also had studied search and rescue techniques at Mr. Hendrick's Team Lifeguard Systems Inc. in Shokan, N.Y.

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