Heading Off the Hurt

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The most affirming part of Dr. LeRone Simpson’s career is the chance to, after something has gone very wrong, help put everything back together again.

“Trauma surgery is very unique in that it offers us and the hospital the ability to treat an injured patient and bring them back to their baseline functional status,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of patients who come in after critical moment or an accident or even a gunshot wound and you help them get back to their functional status. That’s very fulfilling.”

Simpson is a trauma and critical care surgeon with Valley Care Clinics. He serves at McAllen Medical Center. Simpson earned his degree at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated his residency in Lubbock, Texas, and completed a fellowship in trauma and critical care surgery at Washington University in St. Louis and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

He has practiced in the Rio Grande Valley for the past three years.

“Trauma is regional,” Simpson said. “What we see down here a lot by virtue of there’s a highway, there’s a lot of motor vehicle accidents and a lot of motorcycle accidents. There’s also a large elderly population here, so trauma includes areas like ground-level falls.” Injuries from falls could include cerebral hemorrhage, rib fractures, and more.

McAllen Medical Center’s Level II Trauma Center comprises multiple specialties in order to offer complete care to patients. That includes trauma surgeons like Simpson, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and maxillofacial surgeons — plus additional support, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and respiratory therapists, among others.

“It’s a whole team effort,” Simpson said, adding that designated trauma centers like the one at McAllen Medical Center are crucial in patient outcomes. “We are here for the community. Number one, we provide a service. If someone is in a critical moment and they need medical care, that is provided here in a timely manner.”

One of the biggest — and most important — challenges Simpson tasks himself and the trauma center with is community outreach.

“Basically educating the population about the most common injuries we see here and injury prevention,” he explained. “A lot of the patients and cases that we see here are preventable.” Consider, for example, the devastating injuries that can occur when a biker isn’t wearing a helmet, when a passenger isn’t wearing a seatbelt, when individuals drive at unsafe speeds — or under the influence. “So what we try to do as a trauma center is to reach out to the community before an injury even happens to reduce those numbers. Overall, it’s beneficial for the community.”

One of the most visible efforts has been the Stop the Bleed campaign. This nationwide initiative aims to educate the public on responding to a bleeding emergency. According to the Department of Homeland Security, bystanders will always be the first at the scene of an emergency no matter how quickly medical professionals arrive. Knowing basic skills to prevent fatal blood loss can be instrumental in multiple situations.

“Trauma facilities educate the public — that being schools, churches, anywhere where there’s large groups of people gathering — about if there’s a mass casualty, how to address it. How to stop the bleed,” Simpson said. “Specifically, the program here is run by [South Texas Health System Injury Prevention Coordinator] Alejandra Ortega and she has personally trained over 1,000 people in the Valley about Stop the Bleed.”

Other campaigns the trauma center works on include motorcycle injury prevention, ATV injury prevention, and other interventions.

“I think the most important thing from the trauma surgeon standpoint is the outreach to the community and the community response to the trauma center,” Simpson said.