Story by: Joe Hall on June 10, 2020
Norton Children’s Hospital is home to the region’s only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, meaning it is equipped to provide the highest level of trauma care. Mary E. Fallat, M.D., is one of the main reasons why.
When Dr. Fallat, pediatric surgeon with Norton Children’s Surgery, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, and the Hirikati S. Nagaraj, M.D. Endowed Chair in Pediatric Surgery at the University of Louisville, started in the mid-1980s, there wasn’t a pediatric trauma program in the city.
“It was pretty much the surgery resident and emergency department nurse taking care of these patients,” Dr. Fallat said. “It wasn’t a team approach, and there was little education on how pediatric trauma should be treated.”
Dr. Fallat made it her mission to establish a trauma center at Norton Children’s Hospital. She was grateful for colleague and administrative support that allowed her to build the program.
Efforts were rewarded when the hospital received its first national trauma center designation from the American College of Surgeons in 1988. In 2003, David Foley, M.D., a pediatric general surgeon now with Norton Children’s Surgery, was recruited and transitioned to trauma chief in 2006.
The Norton Children’s Hospital trauma team cares for children injured by falls, motor vehicle crashes, gunshots, sports and more. The approach to care has evolved over 30-plus years.
“It’s a carefully coordinated team,” Dr. Fallat said. “The team includes emergency physicians, surgeons, respiratory therapy and radiology. The operating room, lab and blood bank are notified. There also are children’s neurosurgeons, orthopedists and pediatric intensive care staff on standby if we need them. Everyone is highly trained and we work in unison to provide the best possible care.”
The Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation established the Hirikati S. Nagaraj, M.D. Endowed Chair in Pediatric Surgery with the goal of recruiting and retaining key leaders in the field. You can support the endowment or the trauma program directly through a donation to the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Dr. Fallat has been instrumental in improving pediatric trauma care beyond Louisville. She helped establish trauma system legislation so all citizens in Kentucky could get quality care.
She’s served on national and federally appointed trauma committees and completed a grant to help first responders cope with death in the field.
For these efforts, Dr. Fallat recently received the Pediatric Trauma Society Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is given to professionals who have had the biggest impact on improving trauma care nationwide.
“It was very humbling to receive the award, but I had a lot of help getting here,” she said.
Despite all of her achievements, Dr. Fallat doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon. Currently, she’s examining pediatric trauma centers across the country to see how regional care can be improved. She also still enjoys serving patients here at home.
“I still love taking care of kids and their families,” she said.