In 1985, the Beaver State became a nationwide leader in medicine thanks to the Oregon Trauma Plan. Radical for its time, the system was rather simple: the state designated certain hospitals as triage centers so that when paramedics arrived on a scene, severely injured patients could be immediately dispatched not to the closest hospital, but to the facility with the staff, equipment, and hours to best help them. Luckily for Portlanders, both of Oregon’s Level 1 trauma centers are right here in town—at Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center and at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), where a team of seven surgeons cares for roughly 2,500 patients each year. We caught up with our three top trauma surgeons—all from OHSU this year—for a brief glimpse of life up on Pill Hill (and, of course, to find out who they’re bigger fans of: McDreamy or House). —Rachel Ritchie
Dr. Martin Schreiber
Chief of the Division of Trauma, Critical Care, and Acute Care Surgery
What is the most memorable surgery you’ve ever performed?
A young woman came in who had been stabbed in the chest—she had no vital signs. We opened her chest, released a clot in the lining around her heart, and fixed the hole in her heart. Her heart started beating again, and she woke up and went home the next day.
All right, fess up. What’s your favorite medical drama on TV?
I generally don’t watch medical shows, but I do like Scrubs. It’s not about medicine, just about people in a hospital.
Dr. Jennifer Watters
Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Trauma, Critical Care, and Acute Care Surgery
Do you keep track of how many lives you’ve saved?
I don’t think of myself as an individual saving lives. That’s what I love about being in trauma care. I like the collegiality; you’re not out there alone. From the paramedics who arrive on the scene to the surgeons, the physical therapists, the speech pathologists—so many people go into saving a life.
Favorite TV medical drama?
I really liked House when I watched it because of the intellectual approach.
Dr. Richard Mullins
Currently assigned to a field surgical unit in Iraq
What was the first emergency surgery you headed up?
That is hard to say, because it was so long ago [circa 1974]. I do recall that as a surgery resident in Oregon, there was not a lot of trauma surgery. I spent one year doing research in trauma care in Detroit; Detroit was a violent city in those days. The first night I worked at Detroit Receiving Hospital, I saw more injured patients than I had seen in two months in Oregon.
Favorite TV medical drama?
I don’t watch TV medical shows. However, I will always remember seeing Robert Altman’s movie MASH in the spring of 1970. I found those characters deeply inspirational—perhaps that’s when my interest in trauma surgery began.