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U.S. Navy and UCI Health expand successful trauma training collaboration

Program provides Navy clinical personnel with hands-on critical care training before deployment

July 05, 2024
uci health president and ceo chad t lefteris in a suit, left, stands with us navy officers in ceremonial dress in a conference room with uci medical center in the background
Representatives from Naval Surface Force, US Pacific Fleet, and university leaders from UCI Health and UC Irvine School of Medicine gathered to formally approve an expansion of its military-civilian trauma training and knowledge exchange.

Orange, Calif. — UCI Health is expanding its successful partnership with the U.S. Navy West Coast-based fleet of surgical teams. The partnership provides U.S. Navy clinical personnel with hands-on trauma and critical care experiences at UCI Medical Center, Orange County’s only Level 1 trauma center, ahead of deployment.

Since 2022, more than 50 U.S. Navy surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, corpsmen and other clinical personnel have rotated through the medical center’s trauma, critical care, burn and surgical intensive care units, where the most critical patients are admitted.

On June 26, representatives from Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and university leaders from UCI Health and UC Irvine School of Medicine signed a memorandum of understanding to formally approve an expansion of the transformative military-civilian trauma training and knowledge exchange. Similar relationships exist with Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet and First Med Battalion at Camp Pendleton.

“This experience fosters continuous knowledge exchange and skill improvement between the Navy’s expeditionary medical teams and UC Irvine staff, in one of the region’s busiest trauma centers with a long history of military partnership,” said U.S. Navy Capt. John Steely, commander, force surgeon for Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

“Working alongside the talented and experienced trauma teams at UCI Medical Center makes our fleet surgical teams more proficient, ensuring the health and well-being of our U.S. Sailors and Marines.”

Exposure to unique clinical scenarios

The program allows for fleet surgical teams to rotate through four individual weeks of trauma, burn and critical care training at UCI Medical Center as part of their deployment preparation.

Navy and UCI Health clinical leaders agree that the partnership provides military personnel exposure to unique clinical scenarios similar to what they might encounter during active duty.

“Our partnership with the Navy has proven to be of great value not only for the Navy personnel, but also for our own trauma team as well our patients,” says Dr. Michael Lekawa, director, UCI Health Trauma Services, and civilian leader of the partnership.

“The shared experience and expertise of both the civilian and military personnel have been rewarding for everyone.”

Historical relationship with U.S. military

The MOU builds upon a growing history between the U.S. military and UC Irvine. The military-civilian partnership includes Navy trauma surgeon Capt. Jeffrey Chao, MD, who is assigned as the military liaison to UCI Medical Center.

The mission of a fleet surgical team is to deploy with medical and surgical capabilities in support of amphibious ready groups and contingency operations. A team comprises medical and surgical professionals with mission critical specializations designed to supplement a ship’s medical department with medical specialists.

"With this training opportunity, our fleet surgical teams are maintaining the same readiness we require of all our shipboard teams, whether that is engineering, damage control or intelligence,” said Cmdr. Anne Pruitt, the officer in charge of Surface Medical Group Pacific and the surgeon for Expeditionary Strike Group 3.

“We look to provide the same transparent certification process for these medical teams moving forward, and this is the first step in that direction."

Conceived in 2018, the civilian-military partnership was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans resumed when the first Navy surgical teams arrived at UCI Medical Center in October 2022.

One of the state’s busiest trauma centers

UCI Medical Center is Orange County’s longest continuously serving trauma and burn center and was a key part the regional trauma system established by the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 1981. The system was among the first in the United States to coordinate emergency and trauma services across a diverse region to ensure the most critically injured patients are cared for in facilities with the necessary resources and expertise.

UCI Health provides a rich environment for clinical training in trauma, burns, critical care and emergency surgical care. The UCI Medical Center trauma service treats more than 6,000 cases annually, making it one of the busiest trauma centers in California. UCI Health also operates Orange County’s only ABA-verified adult and pediatric burn center, including a 10-bed burn ICU and a burn and wound clinic that annually has more than 300 admissions and 3,000 outpatient visits. The medical center’s critical care service oversees a state-of-the-art 24-bed surgical intensive care unit and consults on a 12-bed neurosciences ICU.

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About UCI Health

UCI Health is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine, and the only academic health system based in Orange County. UCI Health is comprised of its main campus, UCI Medical Center, a 459-bed, acute care hospital in in Orange, Calif., four hospitals and affiliated physicians of the UCI Health Community Network in Orange and Los Angeles counties and ambulatory care centers across the region. Listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 23 consecutive years, UCI Medical Center provides tertiary and quaternary care and is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centerhigh-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma centergold level 1 geriatric emergency department and regional burn center. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and Twitter.

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