McALLEN, Texas – The inaugural South Texas Advance Symposium on Trauma & Critical Care, hosted by the South Texas Health System McAllen Trauma Department, took place over three days last week.

Trauma is the leading cause of death for individuals up to the age of 45, according to the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma. In the United States alone, more than three million traumatic injuries occur each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The symposium, held at the Embassy Suites in McAllen, featured a dozen leading trauma professionals from across the country who work in hospitals, universities, nonprofit organizations, law enforcement and military environments. 

Each guest speaker presented their latest research findings and time-tested strategies related to their work in trauma and critical care to a live and web audience of more than 100 fellow physicians, healthcare and frontline workers, and medical students.

Topics included: The Structure of Modern Combat Casualty Care, led by a general surgeon who has served as a special forces medic on multiple deployments; Acute Burn Resuscitation: ER to Initial Management, led by general and burn surgeon with the U.S. Army; Surgically Yours — A Final Airway Solution, led by a medical device inventor and lecturer; Front Liners: Our Modern Struggle with PTSD in Healthcare, led by a surgical intensivist and more.

In addition to the full day educational conference, the three-day symposium also featured two days of courses in which physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals earned AMA and CME credits and certifications for Stop the Bleed and Mental Health First Aid.

“We wanted to bring the latest knowledge from the military field all the way down to the Rio Grande Valley,” Dr. Carlos H. Palacio, a trauma surgeon and director of research in the trauma department at South Texas Health System McAllen, told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“We have military experts that took care of our soldiers in Afghanistan and they managed to bring the wounded to Germany and after that to the United States. They are sharing with us that knowledge and experience.”

In the audience were paramedics, MDs, surgeons, PAs, nurse practitioners, and students. “These are the people that will be treating trauma patients,” Palacio said.

“Our guest speakers are also sharing their experience with healthcare providers during the Covid-19 pandemic. So, it is not only about trauma. It is also about mental health and how to take care of your own people. We are also sharing knowledge on the best way to take care of burns patients.”

Palacio said a police officer who had experience of the mass shooting in El Paso was also slated to speak at the symposium.

“This area has not received the amount of education it should. We have to bring that up to par in the Rio Grande Valley. This was one of the best ways to do that.”

Palacio was also quoted in a news release issued by STHS about the symposium. He said: “This educational conference was designed to lend useful information to a wide range of medical professionals and to provide insight on the challenging aspects faced in their daily practices. Beyond discussing the current trends of trauma and critical care, it was also important for us to explore how to approach mental wellness. Over the last year, healthcare providers have faced the most significant challenge of our generation with COVID-19, which has imposed a lasting mental strain on each one of us.”

South Texas Health System McAllen CEO Todd Mann said that for his group, continuing education is highly encouraged, not just for the medical personnel at its 11 facilities, but for all professionals involved in patient care throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

“At South Texas Health System, patients are the priority. And to be able to continue providing our patients with the best outcomes, we provide opportunities for our staff to stay current with the latest medical advancements and best practices,” said South Texas Health System McAllen CEO Todd Mann.

“This symposium is not just beneficial to our trauma team and patients, but to other teams and patients from across the country as well. Collaboration is key to being able to offer the best systems of care and for reducing the tens of thousands of fatal trauma injuries that happen each year.”

Certificates of completion were presented to all symposium participants, and the presentations were recorded for future sharing with incoming medical personnel at South Texas Health System. Next year’s South Texas Advance Symposium on Trauma & Critical Care will take place on August 25, 2022.

In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Palacio also spoke about the various levels of trauma care. He said the only difference between a Level One Trauma Center and a Level Two Trauma Center is the research component. There is no difference when it comes to clinical care, the trauma specialist said.

“Clinically, according to the American College of Surgeons, and also the field triage criteria that is give to us by the CDC, Level 1 and Level 2 are equipped to take care of the sickest. We have been a Level 2 since 2018 and we have definitely been taking care of the sickest for many, many years,” Palacio said.

“Let me give you a statistic. Only 40 patients were transferred from the Rio Grande Valley to San Antonio over the last year and that was for the whole Valley. It is not that much,” Palacio said.

“We are taking care of the patients and they are staying in the Valley because of the quality. The quality is the same. Having meetings like this will help. We are getting there. We will get there, absolutely. We will become a Level One Trauma Center. We will raise the bar.”

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