The adult Level I Trauma Center at Froedtert Hospital benefits from close links with the U.S. military. Four of Froedtert Hospital’s trauma and critical care surgeons serve in the military reserves:
- Lewis B. Somberg, MD, MSS, FACS, is in the U.S. Army reserves.
- Thomas Carver, MD, formerly active-duty U.S. Navy, is a member of the U.S. Navy reserves.
- David Milia, MD, FACS, serves in the U.S. Army reserves.
- Jacob Peschman, MD, is a reservist in the U.S. Navy.
Dr. Somberg has 28 years of military service, including tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Honduras. “My father was in World War II, and I always felt that it was my duty to serve our country,” he said. Dr. Somberg is now a brigade commander with 2,000 reservists under his command.
Military service and training have boosted his skills as a people manager and surgeon, Somberg said. “In a military hospital, I might have 35 patients at a time, so one patient doesn’t rattle me anymore,” he said. “In the military, you hone your skills in managing chaos to the ‘nth’ degree.”
Dr. Somberg and his military colleagues also believe their field experience sharpens the ability to make sound and speedy decisions. “Deployed surgeons have to think quickly on their feet,” said Dr. Carver, who served nine years of active duty in the U.S. Navy before entering the Navy reserves in 2012. “In the field, you may not have all the resources you need or the ability to plan your surgeries as meticulously as in the hospital setting. And, because we are occasionally needed to do procedures we might not have seen before, we are a more versatile group of surgeons.”
Trauma Techniques Perfected in Wartime
The field of trauma surgery has benefited from information gathered in military field hospitals in the Middle East over the past two decades, Dr. Somberg noted. A data-collection system known as the Joint Theater Trauma System (JTTS) has recorded information about every American or coalition soldier wounded in a military conflict. Researchers have analyzed this massive database for clues about ways to save lives. They found that the most common cause of death was uncontrollable extremity hemorrhage, meaning soldiers die after losing a limb. Outcomes improved when medics began carrying tourniquets and applying them as soon as possible after the injury occurred.
Analysis of the JTTS also revealed that patients with significant blood loss do best when they receive blood transfusions instead of IV fluids, Dr. Somberg said. Tourniquets and the blood transfusion method have now been adopted by U.S. trauma teams back home — including at Froedtert Hospital.
Disaster Medical Assistance Team: Civilians on Call
Members of the Froedtert & MCW trauma team also serve the public through another federal entity known as a Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT). DMATs operate through the National Disaster Medical System, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“We are considered civilian medical personnel until we are deployed. Then, we become federal employees, not unlike those serving the Army or Navy,” said trauma and critical care nurse practitioner Cheryl Grandlich, RN, MSN, APNP, a member of the Wisconsin-1 DMAT.
Each DMAT is on-call four months of the year to mobilize in case of national disasters. These can include weather-related events such as tornadoes or hurricanes or acts of terrorism on American soil. In case of emergency, DMAT teams can also be staged near large, important events such as a presidential inauguration or national political conventions.
The DMAT includes medical personnel with a range of expertise, such as physicians, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, paramedics, pharmacists, respiratory therapists and psychologists. Lisa Hass-Peters, RN, is acting commander of the Wisconsin-1 team. Hass-Peters, who was previously the injury prevention coordinator for the Trauma Center, is now Froedtert Hospital’s emergency preparedness coordinator.
The DMAT benefits from the knowledge of Froedtert & MCW physicians and staff who are well-versed in trauma care, but the Trauma Center also benefits from the training Grandlich and others gain in the course of their service. Grandlich participates in monthly training in disaster management and trauma and also helped plan a week-long training exercise at Volk Field Air National Guard Base in southwestern Wisconsin. During this national training event, DMAT members worked alongside U.S. Army, Air Force and urban search and rescue units in a simulation to practice how they will perform if there is a massive tornado with flooding that takes out roadways. “In this event, our team was taken by Chinook helicopter into an evacuation site to take care of patients,” Grandlich said. “We set up a field hospital to triage and treat patients and fly them out to appropriate hospitals. Our team also practiced loading and off-loading patients from the Blackhawk helicopters.”
Dr. Carver sees important parallels between working on the trauma team at home and serving in the military or other federal units. “Being in the military gives you a sense of camaraderie and a true appreciation of the team approach,” he said. “You go to work every day with the understanding that you and your partners are out for the same mission: saving lives.”