The Level I Trauma Center at The University of Arizona Medical Center is the busiest in Arizona, serving all of Southern Arizona, portions of western New Mexico, and northern Mexico. Staffed by specially trained trauma surgeons in the UA department of surgery, the center is among the leading Level I trauma centers in the nation, successfully treating trauma patients at lower cost, with lower mortality rates and shorter hospital stays.
The University of Arizona Foundation is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to advancing the UA. Managing an existing asset base of more than $650 million, the UA Foundation has helped generate more than $2 billion in private funding to support the University.
Dr. Peter Rhee, chief of trauma, critical care and emergency surgery in the University of Arizona department of surgery, is the inaugural recipient of the Martin Gluck Endowed Chair.
It is one of 41 endowed chairs within the UA College of Medicine and the second endowment for a division chief in the surgery department. The enduring support will ensure Rhee is able to continue his distinguished public service in medical education, patient care and research at the University.
The endowed position was created with a $1.7 million commitment by Tucson Foundations, a group of 12 private foundations under the direction of the Lohse family. The generous gift is supplemented by the proceeds of the 2011 MASH Bash to bring the endowment to a total of $2 million in funding.
The MASH Bash is an annual fundraising event that supports the UA's Division of Trauma, whose faculty provides surgical services to Southern Arizona's only Level I Trauma Center at The University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus.
"All of us at the trauma program are grateful to the Lohse family and the Tucson Foundations for their generosity and foresight," said Rhee, also a UA professor of surgery. "Endowed chairs enable us to offer the best treatment, train future trauma surgeons to the highest levels of achievement, and pursue research with worldwide significance."
The UA department of surgery is home to the largest multi-specialty surgical group in Arizona, with 10 divisions and 68 general surgery residents. It also has six fellowships in cardiothoracic, vascular, podiatry, trauma, transplant, acute surgical care and minimally invasive surgery.
The chair position will be held by the chief of the Division of Trauma in perpetuity, allowing Rhee and future chiefs to move forward on critically important trauma research.
"The University of Arizona and the Division of Trauma serve our Tucson community and beyond in critical ways," said Linda Lohse '71, who holds a bachelor's degree in nursing from the UA and has served in a number of volunteer leadership positions across campus, including her current post on the UA Foundation's Board of Trustees.
"We are so pleased to be able to support this division – and particularly Dr. Rhee – through an endowed gift."
"Dr. Rhee is an exceptional leader who has, in a few short years, grown our division and helped to amplify the impact and reputation of our Trauma Center," said Dr. Rainer W.G. Gruessner, professor and chairman of the UA department of surgery. "He was the first chief I recruited when I became chairman in 2007, when there was essentially one trauma surgeon and we were not yet a Level 1 Trauma Center."
A retired captain in the U.S. Navy, Rhee also spent 24 years on active duty. On the battlefield, he was one of the first trauma surgeons to be deployed to Camp Rhino, Afghanistan, and recently started the first surgical unit in Ramadi, Iraq. His last post before retiring was as director of the Navy Trauma Training Center at Los Angeles County-University of Southern California, where he trained Naval surgical teams that were deploying for duty.
Rhee also is a fellow with the American College of Surgeons and Critical Care Medicine and has a diploma in the Medical Care of Catastrophes from the Apothecaries of London. In addition, he has an appointment with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences as a professor of surgery and molecular cellular biology.
Rhee is still active in setting policy for combat casualty care as a member of the Defense Health Board's trauma and injury subcommittee. He also sits on the Federal Drug Administration's blood products advisory committee, and the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium's protocol review committee and drug safety and monitoring board. His more than 200 peer-reviewed publications include 20 books and chapters, and he has delivered more than 500 speeches worldwide.
On May 12, he garnered yet another distinction by serving as the featured speaker for the UA Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony.
Said Gruessner: "The annual proceeds of this endowment will allow Dr. Rhee to focus on pivotal research in the field of trauma, including blood substitutes in patients with life-threatening injuries, suspended animation techniques for critically injured patients and innovative treatments for patients suffering shock."
"We hope this gift inspires more endowed support for all of our subspecialty division chiefs to make seminal advances in medical research and clinical surgery."