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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UAMC burn program receives $10,000 to expand services


Photo courtesy of UAMc

The University of Arizona Medical Center burn program recently received a $10,000 donation from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

Although the money is not earmarked for a specific purpose, Dr. Peter Rhee, professor of surgery and chief of the Divison of Trauma, Critical Care, Burns and Emergency Surgery at UAMC, said it will be put into a fund for the overall expansion of the burn-services program, which will entail purchasing new equipment, hiring personnel and adding to the hospital space used by the program.

“It felt fantastic to know that our efforts to serve the community are coming to fruition,” Rhee said.
As a component of the only Level One trauma center in Southern Arizona, the burn unit handles various cases from children scalded by hot water to firefighters who suffer burns while responding to a blaze.

Rhee said his goal is to eventually become a full-service burn center comparable to the Arizona Burn Center at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix. In the past, the Phoenix-based center treated nearly all of the serious burn patients in the state. Now, the burgeoning program at the UA is taking on some of that workload.

“We’re hoping that we can not only provide a service, but save the community a whole lot of money and transfer costs and stress on their families as they go back and forth to Phoenix to see their injured relatives,” said Dr. Gary Vercruysse, associate professor in the Department of Surgery and director of Burn Services at UAMC.

Since Vercruysse arrived at UAMC in September 2012, the burn program has treated patients with burns on up to 40 percent of their total body surface area, he said. Those with more severe burns are still transported to the Arizona Burn Center, but Vercruysse said those cases are rare. In fact, only two patients of the approximately 200 treated at UAMC in the last year were transported to Phoenix, he said.

The financial boost provided by the NFFF is intended to assist in the development of the local burn unit, not only to serve the citizens of Southern Arizona, but also the first responders.
“When [firefighters get burned], just like with the public, it’s important for them to have timely access to a burn center,” said Gary West, division chief of Tucson’s Northwest Fire District and a member of the NFFF’s Southern Arizona Chapter.

The NFFF’s mission is to honor firefighters who died in the line-of-duty and to support their families.The burn center is currently in the process of adding a treatment room and “expanding on the services they provide,” said Vercruysse, who added that he was honored to receive the donation.

“It was an incredibly gracious gift,” Vercruysse said, “and we hope to put it to good use.”

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