Dr. Jeffrey Carter and the University Medical Center Burn Center
Jeffrey Carter, M.D.
Director of the University Medical Center Burn Center
Humans are a highly-adaptive and cooperative species able to process complex interactions before a word is spoken strictly on social signaling. Rarely does an injury or illness of today or yesterday produce a visceral response from social signaling like a burn injury. A relatively small wound can cause scars on the outside and the inside that can disable a person physically and psychosocially. This is where the UMC Burn Center comes into the picture as a place where a team treats the injured with a theme of courage, compassion, and continuity. Unfortunately, there are only 66 American Burn Association-verified burn centers in over 5,500 hospitals in the U.S. and even fewer that have both trauma and burn care available – but we are working to change that in Louisiana.
In 2017 after careful review of the referral patterns and faculty support, the University Medical Center of New Orleans joined with LSUHSC to create a Burn Center at the only level 1 ACS-verified trauma center in Southern Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama. This is where I came in the picture and greeted the inspiring privilege of building a new service for a community while working side-by-side with great surgeons, passionate leaders, and caring professionals. After seeing the potential of this community, I left the 1,000 bed, 7 million square foot medical center of Winston Salem, North Carolina to come home to a place where my great grandfather attended medical school, and where I knew gracious people like my family needed the kind of care we provide in burns. Today, we are preparing to make that care a reality.
The new UMC Burn Center is designed to offer comprehensive multi-disciplinary care for both inpatient and outpatients with features not found in many hospitals. From a facilities standpoint, the newly updated operating room, hydrotherapy room, and eight inpatient rooms can sustain the temperature at 85° F to mitigate hypothermia – a common conundrum in patients with large burn injuries that can result in shivering, increased pain, and coagulopathy. The hydrotherapy room is another unique item where shower stretchers and ceiling mounted water lines aid the team in wound care and assessment. But it isn’t all about wounds on the outside. The family room serves to bring social workers, counselors, survivors, and inpatients together for support and perspective. The total area is 27,000 square feet and includes a rehabilitation gym with three work stations and numerous machines to strengthen patients and improve their range of motion, which are critical aspects of their recovery.
Beyond the paint, heating conduit, and variable air ventilation boxes, physicians from LSUHSC and UMC administrators have been working to build the team and the processes to provide the care. UMC has hired over a dozen new nurses and staff to work in the Burn Center with open positions filling almost daily. A quick reference handbook (QRH) for burns is nearing completion with bulleted guidelines for burn care arranged in a similar format to commercial aviation manuals used by pilots for in-flight emergencies. Representatives from numerous fire departments, Louisiana Emergency Response Network, New Orleans Emergency Medical Services, Homeland Security, National Guard, State Police, Coast Guard, and industry have visited the burn and trauma center and are working to help us become the destination for burn care in our community.
The UMC Burn Center is scheduled to open in early March pending department of health and hospital approval with a grand opening anticipated in late March. Residents and students are welcomed to rotate on the service and see first-hand how caring for the patient with a team of dedicated people can help reduce those scars on the inside and the outside and restore a person following injury.
[Dr. Jeffrey E. Carter serves as the medical director of the new University Medical Center Burn Center in New Orleans and as Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. Prior to moving to New Orleans, he served as the Associate Director for the Wake Forest Baptist Health Burn Center in Winston Salem, North Carolina, Medical Director for the Wake Forest School of Medicine Center for Experiential and Applied Learning, and as the Director of Surgical Education.]