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Reducing trauma’s impact: Surgeon Dr. Michetti focuses on prevention

Christopher Michetti, MD, who specializes in trauma surgery at Inova Fairfax Hospital (IFH), approaches life differently compared to earlier in his career.

 

“Now that I have a family, it hits home that my patients are just like me, in the sense that nobody plans a traumatic event,” says Dr. Michetti, who graduated from medical school at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1994. “I’m constantly aware of the possibility for sudden changes in life, as well as its aftereffects. I see so many patients who are left with a lot of recovery still to be done once they leave the hospital, both physically and emotionally.”

He developed his interest in trauma while in medical school. “Part of my training had me in an ER [Emergency Room] that saw a high volume of penetrating trauma,” he says. “The surgeons there influenced me greatly; they were tireless and energetic, even though they were working all the time. And I could see that their work was very worthwhile.”

A lot has changed since he started working in his specialty, including the sources of trauma. While motor vehicle crashes used to be the primary cause of major injury, because of the combined decades-long efforts to reduce injury from motor-vehicle crashes through better car safety systems and drunk driving reduction, falls have overtaken car crashes as the leading cause of trauma. Dr. Michetti himself sees a whole spectrum of injuries, including blunt and penetrating trauma, such as stab and gunshot wounds.

As trauma prevention is a top priority, Dr. Michetti serves as President of the American Trauma Society, the professional group that promotes National Trauma Awareness month. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the observance, whose theme is “Injury is No Accident.”

Dr. Michetti explains: “We want to make the point that trauma is a preventable disease. There are interventions that we can do to prevent car crashes, such as teenagers getting good driver training and the installation of red light cameras. We are also working to increase safety measures that will reduce the incidence of firearm violence. We want Americans to start thinking about avoiding trauma instead of just reacting to it when it occurs.”

So who inspires Dr. Michetti? He has a slightly different take on the question. “I don’t seek inspiration in the way that people look up to heroes,” he points out. “I get inspiration from the people I work with and the collective groups around the country that are working in the trauma community. Even nationally, it is a small community and we get inspired by one another.”

Trauma is a collective effort, he explains. Each day, the trauma team at IFH divides the work to make it manageable, says Dr. Michetti, with some trauma doctors making patient rounds, some assigned to the trauma bay and others on call or standing by in the ER for new patients. Because IFH is a Level 1 Trauma Center, there is always a trauma team available 24 hours a day, every day.

“Trauma [as a specialty] is so team-oriented,” says Dr. Michetti. “We also interact with so many other medical specialists and units, such as the ER, the ICU, the operating room, radiology and nursing units all over the hospital to get the work done. We are proud of the work we do and we want to continue to do it well.”

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Specialty Trauma Care

Learn about trauma services at Inova.

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