Fascinating 40-Yr-Old Letter Tells Methodist Staff: Trauma Center Is Coming

It’s typed up, really typed, on a typewriter. A two-page memo sent to the Methodist Hospital staff back in 1977.

The letter is fascinating, a glimpse at the beginnings of a trauma center that four decades later is the largest Level I trauma center in the state and one of the busiest in the nation.

Richard F. Graffis, M.D., a surgeon at Methodist, wrote that letter 40 years ago. He wanted to let employees know that at a recent medical staff meeting, “clearance was given for the organization of an official Trauma Center.”

“Methodist Hospital is a trauma center by its very nature. We would like to make it a better, more sophisticated trauma center, hopefully avoiding delays and indecision in critical patient and multiple system injury patients where time is of the essence,” Graffis writes, noting that he will be organizer and coordinator of the center. “It is not (with ‘not’ underlined) an attempt to interfere with normal referral patterns or monopolize trauma cases in Indianapolis.”

That trauma center opened Feb. 25, 1977. Fourteen years later it became officially verified by the American College of Surgeons. Today, Methodist boasts Level I status and round the clock staffing of specialists. 

Here is the 1977 letter from Dr. Graffis in its entirety:

TO: METHODIST HOSPITAL STAFF

At the recent Medical Staff meeting, clearance was given for the organization of an official Trauma Center at Methodist Hospital and I was given responsibility as organizer and coordinator of the Trauma Center. I felt a letter of clarification of goals and a brief indication of modus operandi would be in order.

Methodist Hospital is a trauma center by its very nature. We would like to make it a better, more sophisticated trauma center, hopefully avoiding delays and indecision in critical patient and multiple system injury patients where time is of the essence. It is not (underlined) an attempt to interfere with normal referral patterns or monopolize trauma cases in Indianapolis.

Several goals would hopefully be met but the organization:

1. Organization and better utilization of existing private practice physicians and facilities, in more of a team approach.

2. Ready availability of consultants in various subspecialties and on short notice (hopefully less than thirty minutes).

3. Coordination of our efforts with those of outlying facilities, i.e., county hospitals and also transportation systems.

4. Upgrade the training of staff physicians and, house staff, nurses, paramedics and EMTs in the area of trauma and critical care.

5. Improvement of monitoring facilities in the trauma unit and critical care areas of the hospital.

6. Provide a critical, constructive view of trauma care at Methodist Hospital.

7. Improve feedback and communications with referring physicians and and referring hospitals. 

8. Acquiring available private and governmental funds for use in trauma research and care.

9. Obtaining and maintaining standards well above those outlined by accrediting groups, particularly “regional planning” groups.

10. Establishment of priorities in the use of X-ray, Laboratory and Operating Room facilities.

It is my intention to accomplish as many of these goals as possible. The bulk of the responsibility will fall on the general surgeons, anesthesiologists, and the surgical subspecialties initially, but all the specialties will be utilized as individual cases demand.

The Trauma Call Schedule went into effect February 1, 1977 for General Surgery, Neurosurgery and Orthopedic Surgery, with schedules for certain other specialties to follow in the upcoming months. The Trauma Conferences are being held the second and fourth Wednesday of the each month, and these also were initiated in February.

Anyone wishing to become involved with the Trauma Center is certainly welcome. I am looking forward to working on this project and will value your cooperation in making it successful.

Sincerely,

Richard F. Graffis, M.D.
Coordinator
Center for Trauma and Critical Care

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.


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