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Stony Brook Trauma Center

Stony Brook University surgeon James Vosswinkel, above left, is recognized prior to the Dec. 5, 2016 New York Jets game at Metlife Stadium. Photo from Melissa Weir

When they come to him, they need something desperately. He empowers people, either to help themselves or others, in life and death situations or to prevent the kinds of traumatic injuries that would cause a crisis cascade.

Dr. James Vosswinkel, an assistant professor of surgery and the chief of trauma, emergency surgery and surgical critical care, as well as the medical director of the Stony Brook Trauma Center, is driven to help people through, or around, life-threatening injuries.

Vosswinkel speaks to people in traffic court about the dangers of distracted driving and speeding, encourages efforts to help seniors avoid dangerous falls and teaches people how to control the bleeding during significant injuries, which occur during mass casualty crisis.

For his tireless efforts on behalf of the community, Vosswinkel is a Times Beacon Record News Media Person of the Year.

Vosswinkel teaching bleeding control in April at MacArthur Airport Law Enforcement Division for the Town of Islip. Photo from Stony Brook University

Vosswinkel is the “quarterback for developing all the resources and making sure the quality of those individuals is up to very, very high standards,” said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, the dean of the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. “He’s a very fine trauma surgeon, who has assembled a team of additional fine surgeons. If he’s ever needed, he’s always available, whether he’s on call or not.”

Vosswinkel has earned recognition from several groups over the last few years. He was named the Physician for Excellence in 2016 by the EMS community.

In 2016, Lillian Schneider was involved in a traumatic car accident for which she needed to be airlifted to Stony Brook Hospital. Despite the severe nature of her injuries, Schneider gradually recovered.

In September Vosswinkel was honored as the first Lillian and Leonard Schneider Endowed Professor in Trauma Surgery at Stony Brook University.

“What’s different about Vosswinkel,” or “Voss” as Jane McCormack, a resident nurse and the trauma program manager at Stony Brook calls him, is that “a lot of people talk about working harder, but he does it. He’s an intense guy who is very passionate about what he does.”

Dr. Mark Talamini, the chair of the Department of Surgery and the chief of Surgical Services at Stony Brook Hospital who is also Vosswinkel’s supervisor, said Vosswinkel will come to the hospital to help a member of his team at any hour of the night.

“When his people need help, he’s there,” Talamini said.

Vosswinkel was recently promoted to chief consulting police surgeon by the Suffolk County Police Department.

Dr. Scott Coyne, the chief surgeon for the Suffolk County Police Department said he’s come to rely on Vosswinkel repeatedly over the years.

Coyne said Vosswinkel is frequently on the scene at the hospital, where he shares critical information about police officers and their families with Coyne.

“He’s a very valuable adjunct to our police department,” Coyne said. “If you are transferred because of the seriousness of your trauma or the location of your trauma and you end up at Stony Brook, you can be well assured that you’ll receive state-of-the-art care. Vosswinkel is one of the leaders in the delivery of that surgical care.”

“If you are transferred because of the seriousness of your trauma or the location of your trauma and you end up at Stony Brook, you can be well assured that you’ll receive state-of-the-art care. Vosswinkel is one of the leaders in the delivery of that surgical care.”

— Dr. Scott Coyne

The trauma surgeon is also involved in helping train members of the community with a system called B-Con, for bleeding control.

Amid the alarming increase in mass casualty events that have occurred throughout the country, the first provider of care is often a civilian.

“Even before the EMS gets there, civilians can take action,” McCormack said. Vosswinkel has been directly involved in helping civilians to recognize life-threatening hemorrhaging, how to place a tourniquet and how to pack wounds.

“He’s been the energizer bunny for that [effort] all throughout Suffolk County and on Long Island,” Talamini said. “It’s been an incredible effort.”

Talamini said he is impressed by the work Vosswinkel has also done at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center to help prepare for its Level 3 certification.

“He has begun doing his magic at another significant Suffolk County hospital,” Talamini said. Talamini called his work on blood control at Brookhaven “superhuman.”

Talamini said he is impressed with his colleague’s ability to connect with people from various walks of life, which is an asset to the trauma surgeon.

“He’s that kind of person, which is why he’s been so successful with all these outreach events,” Talamini said. “His patients adore him.”

Working with the Setauket Fire Department, Stony Brook’s Trauma Center offers tai chi for arthritis and fall prevention, which uses the movements of tai chi to help seniors improve their balance and increase their confidence in performing everyday acts.

Discussions about Vosswinkel often include references to a conspicuous passion: the New York Jets.

Kaushansky called Vosswinkel the most die-hard Jets fan he has ever seen. His office is decorated with Jets paraphernalia, leaving it resembling a green shrine.

In December 2016, the Jets honored Vosswinkel for his lifesaving care of two Suffolk County police officers. He participated in the coin toss to kick off a Monday Night Football game.

Vosswinkel credited the trauma group for the favorable outcomes for the two officers.

“This is not about me,” he said at the time. “This is about Stony Brook. It is a true team that truly cares about patients.”

To be sure, the successful and effective doctor does have his challenging moments.

“He gets tired and cranky once in a while, like everyone else does,” McCormack said. “Most people in this building would be, like, ‘I want to be on his team. I know we’ll probably win with him.’”

A win for Vosswinkel and the Stony Brook trauma team is a win for the patient and for the community, which benefits from some of the best trauma care in the country, Talamini said.

“There’s nobody that’s more deserving and done so much and continues to do so much for the people of Suffolk County than Dr. Vosswinkel,” Coyne said

Stony Brook has the only regional Trauma Center in Suffolk County. File photo from SBU

By L. Reuven Pasternak, M.D.

Injury is the leading cause of death for all Americans under age 45. When an injury or trauma occurs, having fast access to comprehensive care can be the difference between life and death. Stony Brook Trauma Center was officially verified by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and designated by the New York State Department of Health as Suffolk County’s only Adult and Pediatric Level 1 Trauma Center earlier this month.

Level 1 Trauma Centers are the highest level centers, capable of providing a full range of services to the most severely injured patients. Stony Brook Trauma Center is also designated by New York State as the Regional Trauma Center (the highest level) for adults and children and serves as Suffolk’s only regional burn center through the Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters Burn Center at Stony Brook Medicine.

Meeting the strict quality and safety requirements established by the ACS further proves Stony Brook’s standing in the community as a center of excellence, able to offer a full range of medical services and world-class patient care. Patients who are seriously injured by major trauma require immediate attention from a team of medical professionals who are specially trained to recognize and treat immediate threats to life.

Led by Dr. James Vosswinkel, trauma medical director, and Dr. Richard Scriven, pediatric medical director, Stony Brook Trauma Center cares for close to 2,000 patients annually — adults and children, who have sustained blunt, penetrating or thermal traumatic injury. Ninety-five percent of these patients have sustained blunt injuries — the majority from falls or from motor vehicle crashes. Twenty-five percent of the center’s patients are transferred in from one of the county’s 10 other hospitals and every day Stony Brook flight paramedics are on board Suffolk County Police Department helicopters, providing timely and advanced care directly at the scene of an injury.

As a Level I Trauma Center, Stony Brook participates in a national quality program called TQIP (Trauma Quality Improvement Program). In the most recent TQIP report, it was found that patients who were seriously injured and then treated at Stony Brook Trauma Center were much less likely to die or to develop a major complication than patients treated at other TQIP trauma centers.

Stony Brook Trauma Center is committed to not only treating injury but to preventing injury from occurring. The trauma center regularly conducts many community prevention programs in partnership with other local agencies. They include:

Teddy Bear Clinics: These school-based safety programs target the use of booster seats, rear-facing car seats and use of helmets for sports.

Senior Fall Prevention: These community-based programs educate older adults and their families on how to remain independent and safe. Evidenced-based programs, such as Tai Chi, that are designed to build core strength and prevent fall injury are taught.

Traffic Violators: A bimonthly program with the Suffolk County Traffic Court teaches the consequences of risky driving and offers techniques for behavior change.

Bleeding Control for the Injured (B-Con): To help community members cope with public emergency situations, this important program, which is provided at no charge to universities, community groups and schools, teaches key lifesaving skills, including hands-only CPR, tourniquet making and wound treatment.

To learn more about Stony Brook Trauma Center, visit www.trauma.stonybrookmedicine.edu.

L. Reuven Pasternak, M.D., is the chief executive officer at Stony Brook University Hospital and the vice president for health systems at Stony Brook Medicine.