Surgeon Leads Trauma Training in Asia

August 8, 2011 5:45 AM

Fran Simon

In parts of the world where accident victims likely are transported to a hospital by “tuk tuk” — a small, three-wheeled vehicle — Tulane surgeon Dr. Bernard Jaffe is leading an effort to train emergency medical technicians, nurses and doctors.

Tulane Empowers


In Cambodia, accident victims are likely transported to a hospital by “tuk tuk” — a wagon powered by a motorbike motor — without the benefit of an EMT trained in trauma. (Photos by Dr. Bernard Jaffe)

Jaffe, an emeritus professor of surgery, is working with the international foundation Operation Smile. Eighty-five percent of the world’s population live in resource-poor nations, and 90 percent of deaths from injuries occur in developing countries, Jaffe says. For every child who dies after sustaining a trauma, there are three children who are permanently disabled.

“The critical need is for trained EMTs and paramedics capable of providing care to children and adults during transport,” says Jaffe, director of the Operation Smile Trauma Education Program. “The specialty of emergency medicine does not exist in the underdeveloped world. There is a critical need for training physicians and nurses in injury-care and life-support skills.”

Over the past six years, Jaffe and Operation Smile have conducted three to four educational missions annually. 


Dr. Marie Unruh, a fourth-year Tulane surgery resident, uses a dummy to teach life- support skills to police officers in Cambodia.

On each mission, Jaffe takes along at least one Tulane surgical resident as well as medical students who assist in training while they are learning skills themselves. So far, programs have been implemented in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Nepal.

“Nepal is concerned that the country is overdue for an earthquake, so a mass-casualty course was taught to 158 doctors, medical students and embassy staff members as first-responders,” Jaffe says.

This academic year, plans include expansion of the programs to Bangladesh and Malaysia, and then to Africa in Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

“The need is unbelievable at all levels,” Jaffe says. “The training program is exploding. It’s incredibly rewarding because you can immediately see an impact from what you’re doing.”


Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000