Top: Dr. Marie Crandall (center) performs exploratory laparotomy for trauma at University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville. Photo: Dr. Albert Hsu Bottom: Dr. Marie Crandall is a trauma surgeon with a research focus on community violence and disparities in trauma care. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Marie Crandall
I interviewed for medical school on April 29, 1992. I was particularly interested in the Charles R. Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program because of its mission to address the needs of the underserved communities of South Central Los Angeles. As a product of a deeply caring, social-justice-focused family, Head Start and Detroit public schools, I followed my path naturally to public service and, eventually, medicine. Drew/UCLA was one of a handful of programs that would provide mentorship, solid preclinical training, clinical excellence and a committed faculty.
I emerged from the interview enthusiastic about the program. I turned on the radio of my 1987 diesel Escort and heard the verdict of the Rodney King trial. I was horrified and so deeply saddened, but never did I think, as I was driving out of Watts, that it would profoundly alter the fabric of South Central forever: 53 people dead, 2,000 injured and $1 billion in damages. Watching the city burn made me passionate about addressing the economic and social disparities that were the true tinder of the riots.
I would say my research with the greatest impact has been on the effect of transport times on mortality in urban trauma patients. In 2013, we published the results of 11 years of Chicago data that found a 23-percent increased risk of dying after a gunshot wound, even controlling for injury severity and other covariates, when the shooting occurred more than five miles from a trauma center. GIS mapping found that there was a “trauma desert” on the south and southeast sides of Chicago, where the entire area was outside of a five-mile radius of a trauma center. Not coincidentally, these also are some of the most economically distressed areas of the city. Supplemental work supported these findings, and, partly as the result of community activism and political efforts, the University of Chicago will open a new Level I trauma center on the south side of Chicago in 2017.
In 2015, I left Chicago for an opportunity at the University of Florida College of Medicine- Jacksonville as professor of surgery and director of surgical research. The University of Florida has a strong clinical-research legacy, and I look forward to helping foster and expand the ongoing research activities of our faculty and trainees. I thank Drew/UCLA for the essential steps along this incredibly rewarding path.