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University of Missouri Health Care News Releases
Frank L. Mitchell Jr., M.D., a founding father of trauma care, honored Nov. 7

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Frank L. Mitchell Jr., M.D., one of the founding fathers of modern trauma care, saw his name in lights this weekend.

On Saturday, Nov. 7, University of Missouri Health Care unveiled permanent signage on the University Hospital building with the wording “Frank L. Mitchell Jr., M.D., Trauma Center.” The signage was displayed at a ceremony honoring Mitchell on Nov. 7, in the main lobby of University Hospital.

Among the participants at the ceremony were Jim Ross, chief executive office of MU Health Care; M. Margaret Knudson, M.D., vice chair of the American College of Surgeons’ Committee on Trauma; Erwin Thal, M.D., professor of surgery at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas; Donald Trunkey, professor of surgery at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland; and Kenneth Mattox, professor and vice chair of surgery at Baylor University in Houston.

In more than 50 years at University Hospital, Mitchell has been instrumental in building the hospital’s trauma program. University Hospital’s Frank L. Mitchell Jr., M.D., Trauma Center is one of only two Level I trauma centers in Missouri nationally verified by the Committee on Trauma of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The ACS verification is the highest national recognition a trauma center can receive.

“University Hospital is a nationally recognized trauma center thanks to the lifelong commitment and support of Frank Mitchell,” said Jim Ross, chief executive officer for University of Missouri Health Care. “Dr. Mitchell is a visionary whose contributions to modern trauma care have played a significant role in saving the lives of thousands of trauma patients.” 

In the 1960s, Mitchell founded mid-Missouri’s first hospital ambulance service. He recognized that patients needed expert care before arriving at the hospital and began the state’s first paramedic training program in the 1970s. When hard-to-travel country roads delayed getting life-saving care to rural Missourians, Mitchell introduced central Missouri’s first emergency helicopter service in the 1980s.

Throughout his career, Mitchell understood the importance of collaboration in improving medical transportation. In 1968, he collaborated with the MU School of Engineering to custom build an ambulance with lights and a siren, medical equipment and space in the back for the patient and a staff member who could administer medical care. He also introduced a radio system so hospital staff would know beforehand when a trauma patient was en route. In 1980, he conducted a study using the Missouri Highway Patrol’s helicopter as an air ambulance. Mitchell’s findings revealed that hospitals could save lives with a helicopter. As a result, University Hospital began the Staff for Life Helicopter service in 1982.

“We are reminded of Dr. Mitchell’s commitment to improving the delivery of trauma care each time a patient is transported to University Hospital by ambulance or the Staff for Life Helicopter,” said Stephen Barnes, M.D., associate professor and chief of the Division of Acute Care Surgery. “Modern medical technology is shortening treatment times and resulting in more successful outcomes for patients. This was the vision of Dr. Mitchell more than 40 years ago when he started University Hospital’s ambulance service and remains the mission of our entire trauma team today.”

Mitchell’s contributions to trauma care extend beyond the borders of Missouri. He played a key role in establishing the verification and consultation program of the American College of Surgeons’ Committee on Trauma. The verification program sets standards that trauma centers must meet to show they provide the best trauma care available. Mitchell and other committee members would travel the country reviewing trauma centers and teaching staff how to improve trauma care.

“With the guidance of Frank Mitchell, and the fellow founding fathers of modern trauma care, hospitals around the country organized trauma centers based on the best practices adopted by the American College of Surgeons,” said Barnes.

University Hospital serves as a comprehensive trauma center for central Missouri and beyond. Approximately 1,500 trauma patients are treated at the hospital each year. Many of these patients arrive with serious or life-threatening injuries as the result of motor vehicle crashes, pedestrian and bicycle injuries, falls, burns and other injuries.

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