OHSU

Letter from Dean Richardson

Dean Richardson

Dear friends:

I have a true story to tell you. Sadly, the story starts with a terrible car crash and a young girl. When 12-year old Aimee arrived at OHSU Hospital, she was in very bad shape. The sedan she was riding in had been slammed by a truck. It took paramedics 30 minutes just to cut her out, so the clock was ticking before she even arrived at our doors.

You train, train and train again for these kinds of situations, none of which you can ever model or simulate exactly. Then a real-life situation suddenly stares you in the face, and it all comes together.

The accident caused a rupture in Aimee’s aorta. For those of you familiar with clinical terms, you’ll recognize the seriousness of the injury. For others, suffice it to say that this type of trauma is life-threatening in itself, and it also hampers prompt treatment of other critical injuries. Along with the torn aorta, Aimee had suffered a ruptured spleen, abdominal trauma, broken ribs and damage to her brain.

Over the next four hours, a team of highly-trained, dedicated people at OHSU worked together to save Aimee – paramedics, interventional radiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, trauma physicians, angiographers, residents and fellows, nurses, technicians and neurosurgeons. Some of our MD students in the Department of Emergency were also part of this experience.

Aimee survived and is now back at home with her family and back in school. Her parents gave me permission to tell her story.

Research faculty members in the OHSU School of Medicine have been instrumental in the development of stent-grafts and the multidisciplinary approach to their use in the treatment of ruptured aortas. This novel technique likely saved Aimee’s life.

Periodically, we read about members of our community who are championed by the media or honored for their work – a new study, a high-profile patient, a quick response in a public situation. This is much-deserved recognition but sometimes we forget that incredible, life-saving, life-changing things happen here every day here at OHSU.

As one of the faculty physicians involved that day in Aimee’s treatment, said: “You train, train and train again for these kinds of situations, none of which you can ever model or simulate exactly. Then a real-life situation suddenly stares you in the face, and it all comes together.”

While the teamwork and expertise of all our clinical faculty and staff were exemplary, there is more to Aimee’s story. The traditional surgical intervention for Aimee’s aortic injury would have required anti-coagulants to thin the blood. The resulting increase in bleeding would have dramatically worsened her other injuries, putting her life in further jeopardy.

A rapid decision was made. Rather than opening up Aimee's chest, the team accessed an artery through a small incision in the groin and inched a stent-graft to the site of the aortic rupture through a catheter. This is a specially designed device that, when released in the aorta, opens to re-line the blood vessel. Within seconds, the stent-graft sealed over the torn aorta, allowing the team to progress to other critical care priorities.

Research faculty members in the OHSU School of Medicine have been instrumental in the development of stent-grafts and the multidisciplinary approach to their use in the treatment of ruptured aortas. This novel technique likely saved Aimee’s life.

Situations like Aimee’s bring into stark relief the importance of and mutually beneficial relationship between clinical care and research, and the unique role we play in the health care landscape in Oregon.

Our intellectually-dynamic collegial environment, catalyzed by the full continuum of basic science to translational research to clinical care, literally changes the world, one life at a time.

And all this expertise and experience, in turn, is brought to bear on our educational mission.

The OHSU School of Medicine excels in educating tomorrow’s physicians, scientists and other health care professionals and in preparing them for a lifetime of learning, leadership, discovery and service. This is where healing, teaching, discovery and service truly come together.

Mark Richardson Signature

Mark A. Richardson, MD, MScB, MBA
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine
President, Faculty Practice Plan