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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Medical society honors doctors

The Pima County Medical Society honored three physicians from the University Medical Center – University Campus as physicians of the year on Friday.

The event, which opened with a live jazz band, dancing and hors d’oeuvres at the Tucson Museum of Art, honored six physicians altogether, including three as physicians of the year for attending to the Jan. 8 shooting victims and helping to build the center’s trauma system.

“We are embarking on a new era,” said Rainer Gruessner, UA College of Medicine chairman for the department of surgery and one of the three honorees.

Four years ago, Peter Rhee, chief of the Division of Trauma at the University Medical Center – University Campus, worked alone but now has a staff of 10, Gruessner said.

“He saved not only (Rep.) Gabby Giffords’ life, but that of many others,” he said. “A quarterback is only as good as his team is … and I tell you I’ve got a fantastic team.”

Rhee, another physicians of the year honoree, thanked the community for allowing him and the trauma team to provide services for surgery.

“Trauma is not an individual sport, it’s a team sport,” he said. “I only take this honor and recognition to say that it’s for everybody out there that does it for us and we’re very proud of that.”

Michael Lemole, the third honoree and the chief of neurosurgery at the center, thanked everyone who played a role in helping the shooting victims.

“What I learned is that the community both grieves together and heals together,” Lemole said.

Pam Simon, the community outreach coordinator for Giffords, was wounded on Jan. 8. At 63, she said she was fortunate enough to never have experienced trauma.

“But there I was laying on the ground in front of Safeway and loaded into a ambulance, and barreling down the highway,” Simon said.

She kept hearing people in the ambulance say “GSW,” meaning gunshot wound. Simon had two of them. When she reached the trauma center, she said it felt like she was on a television set for a hospital show.

“Everything seemed to work absolutely perfectly,” she said. “I was immediately taken in, immediately somebody was with me, immediately somebody was giving me reassurance.”

Giffords fought hard to keep a trauma center in Tucson, Simon said.
“And how ironic that she received the incredible services of that trauma unit just a few years later,” she added.

Three other awards were given out that night, including the Rose Marie Malone Service Award, which was given to Dr. Eve Shapiro. She served as the chair in a committee to raise Arizona Medicaid eligibility to all those under the federal poverty level and is an “outstanding pediatrician,” said Timothy Fagan, the event’s master of ceremonies.

“What’s best for patients is ultimately what’s best for providers,” Shapiro said. “My belief is what’s best for patients is to have access to health care by having health insurance.”

Shapiro said the community is fortunate to have talented physicians who understand the financial impact of taking care of uninsured patients. Without insurance, programs would suffer and everyone would lose, she said.

The Pima County Medical Society Volunteer of the Year award went to Dr. Wayne Peate, an associate professor of public health and the founding chairman of the Joint Technical Education District, which serves 18,000 students. With the help of Steve Nash, the executive director of the Pima County Medical Society and other members of the community, they were able to convince 11 school districts in Pima County to vote for JTED, Peate said.

“Our singular goal was to provide marketable skills for young people by the time they graduate from high school,” Peate said.

Dr. C. Peter Crowe, a pediatric surgeon, received the final and highest award of the night, the Lifetime Achievement award. Though he was unable to attend the event, Dr. Rock Jackson spoke for him.

“He came to Tucson and he saw a need,” Jackson said. “He established a premier pediatric surgical practice and he continued for 35 years.”

Crowe was “critical” to the pediatric department because he shared new ideas and techniques in pediatric surgery, Jackson said.

“We have a vision that we share and we were able to put an academic organization here,” Rhee said about the medical center. “We don’t want to be the top in Arizona, but we actually want to be the top in the country.”

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