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Morris at heart of Trauma Center’s evolution

Aug. 29, 2013, 8:05 AM

On Aug. 4, John Morris, M.D., Vanderbilt’s first director of the Division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care, took call in the Trauma Unit for the last time, after dedicating nearly 30 years to trauma service at Vanderbilt.

John Morris, M.D.

Morris took his first call on July 4, 1984, shortly after his arrival at Vanderbilt, with zero trauma admissions the entire holiday weekend. For perspective, this year, 18 combined level I and level 2 trauma patients were brought to Vanderbilt July 4 alone, with eight admissions to the Trauma Unit.

During Morris’ tenure: Vanderbilt became the region’s only Level I Trauma Center and built the integrated trauma system it has today; the nation’s second trauma and acute care surgery fellowship was born, which is now the largest American College of Surgeons-certified program in the country; Vanderbilt’s LifeFlight fleet now includes five helicopters plus a fixed-wing aircraft and ground ambulances; and the 31-bed acute care unit known as the Vanderbilt Trauma Center, located on 10 North in Vanderbilt University Hospital, officially opened its doors.

“John Morris is the epitome of the true blue trauma surgeon — a superb clinician, educator and world-renowned researcher,” said Richard Miller, M.D., chief of the Division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care and professor of Surgery. “He always took his equal share of call both on weekends and nights, and was the first to volunteer to cover a faculty member who needed time off for any reason.

“He is one of the original pioneers of trauma surgery and helped our surgical subspecialty evolve into acute care surgery, which encompasses what we do best — trauma, emergency surgery and surgical critical care. We are all very grateful for his many years of hard work, dedication and perseverance in the quest for exceptional surgical care of the critically ill and injured patient,” Miller said.

Morris continues his service to Vanderbilt as associate chief of staff of the Vanderbilt Health System, chief medical officer of the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network, and professor of Surgery and adjunct professor of Biomedical Informatics.

When asked about life at the helm of Vanderbilt’s trauma program, Morris said, “This is a hard job, but it is a really good job. There are highs and there are lows, and the highs are super high and the lows can be pretty low, but it is the kind of job where you never have to justify getting out of bed in the morning.”

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