Professor Zsolt Balogh is the Director of Trauma for the John Hunter Hospital and the Hunter New England Area and a professor of traumatology at the University of Newcastle. His dedication to trauma care extends from the operating table and bedside to the community, where he is also committed to injury prevention, education and research
How did you get started in your career? As a first year medical student I participated in after-hours work at the trauma department of my university. I did procedures under supervision in emergency scenarios on trauma patients and hung out with trauma surgeons in major operations. During the six years of medical school I also performed basic science research (traumatic shock and resuscitation) and clinical research (major abdominal trauma). From year six, I worked as a basic surgical skills educator for the year three students. These activities set the foundation for clinical trauma surgery, research and teaching, which are the three main pillars of my practice as an academic trauma surgeon. When I started as an intern, I took any opportunity to work beyond my normal duties on trauma patients.
What are your areas of expertise and your current role? My clinical expertise is the management of major trauma (polytrauma) patients who require time-critical decisions and life-saving interventions. As a surgeon I specialise in pelvic and acetabular fracture fixation, management of major orthopaedic trauma and post-injury reconstruction.
What are the rewards and challenges? Having the ultimate trust of my patients and the ability to serve them are the most rewarding aspects of my work. The challenge is to provide optimal treatment of the complex polytraumatised patient in a multidisciplinary health care system, which has many other priorities apart from trauma patient management. The rest of my work is relatively straightforward.
Are there any misconceptions about your specialty? There are some real misconceptions about what we do. Trauma surgery is frequently confused with being part of emergency medicine. A trauma surgeon in Australia is a surgeon who is responsible for the continued care of trauma patients from hospital admission to rehabilitation, and who operates on trauma patients within his or her specialty area (most frequently general surgery or orthopaedic trauma surgery). A trauma surgeon is also dedicated to injury prevention, organisation of pre-hospital care with destination protocols, research, education and quality control/assurance.
Who are your mentors? Professor Endre Varga (Szeged, Hungary) mentored me during my early resident years. He was able to accept my opinionated nature toward trauma surgery and showed me the finest example of continued patient-centred care. Professor Ernest “Gene” Moore (Denver, Colorado) is “the” trauma surgeon, with exemplary aspects of a mentor, a no-nonsense master surgeon, and the ultimate scientist and sportsman. Professor Frederick A Moore (currently Gainesville, Florida) trusted me as a researcher through challenging times and really mentored me to the level of an internationally recognised trauma scientist.
What do you enjoy about mentoring the next generation of trauma surgeons? Mentoring young doctors is extremely rewarding. I enjoy seeing them committed to patient care, translating their continued learning to clinical practice and watching them mature professionally, all for the benefit of our patients. It is great to act for them as a godfather would, protecting them from danger but gradually mentoring them to be able to practice safely, independently and establish themselves as independent researchers.
Would you recommend this specialty? I would, without doubt. There are many aspects of medicine that are questionable and frequently challenged by new findings, and the principles of treatment swing between the two ends of the spectrum. Putting your finger on a hosing artery to stop the bleeding or realigning and stabilising a grossly displaced fracture to restore a human life and function makes a lot of sense to me.
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