Northwestern Medicine Team Aims to Improve Trauma Care in Bolivia

Northwestern Medicine
Emergency Medicine and Trauma February 19, 2013
If you’re injured in a car accident in Chicago, you can count on an ambulance that is equipped with sophisticated medical equipment and staffed with specially-trained emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics to quickly arrive at the scene. Once the ambulance arrives, you’ll be transported to the nearest hospital emergency department, or if critically injured, brought to the closest level 1 trauma center, like Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This standard of care is something that most of us in the United States can’t comprehend living without, yet for much of the world this is not a reality.

Bolivia's mountainous terrainLa Paz is the densely populated capital city of Bolivia, South America’s poorest nation. With mountainous terrain and poor road conditions, as well as minimally-enforced vehicle and driver standards, the region sees an incredibly high number of fatal road traffic incidents.  Even with a high volume of traumas, there is no formal pre-hospital care system and the local hospitals lack a triage system to effectively prioritize its patients, leading to ineffective care.

A Northwestern Medicine team of trauma surgeons, nurses, medical students, and ancillary staff, is traveling to La Paz as part of the Crescendos Alliance Trauma Initiative (CATI) with a goal of creating long-term partnerships between Bolivian and American hospitals to improve the pre-hospital and hospital trauma care systems throughout Bolivia. Steven Schuetz, a graduating medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who spearheaded the initiative, arrived in La Paz last week. In March, he will be joined by Mamta Swaroop, MD, an attending trauma surgeon at Northwestern Memorial and assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Jennifer Mullen, RN, trauma coordinator at Northwestern Memorial; and Inge LeBlanc, RN, surgical ICU staff nurse at Northwestern Memorial.

You can follow Steven’s experience in Bolivia on his blog.