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Edith Mitchell, MD, FACS, knows a lot about emergency medical care. But she had no experience as a patient in an emergency department – until she was critically injured in December 2010.

From 1987 until 2004, Dr. Mitchell, a medical oncologist who has practiced at Jefferson since 1997, held increasingly responsible roles supervising emergency care as part of the National Guard. By the end of her military career, Dr. Mitchell was overseeing 55 of 84 National Guard medical units. She was responsible for establishing standard operating procedures for emergency care and emergency transportation – and ensuring that all military physicians, nurses and related personnel were properly trained on those procedures.

Not surprisingly, when she found herself critically injured in an automobile accident, Dr. Mitchell says she quickly began assessing her injuries and her pain.

“My training and experience helped me,” she says. “I immediately turned off my car to make sure there was no gasoline flowing, and I put the car in park in case it shifted. I also began assessing myself and my own injuries so I could tell people what was hurt.” And, Dr. Mitchell admits, she was gearing up to insist that she be transferred to Jefferson as soon as her condition was stable.

As it turned out, she was able to receive top-notch care in the suburbs – thanks to Paoli Hospital’s Level II Trauma Center, which had earned accreditation just two months prior to Dr. Mitchell’s accident.

As the Paoli nurses were helping Dr. Mitchell put on a gown, she says, “I heard somebody outside my room say, ‘I would know that voice anywhere – that’s Edith Mitchell!’”

A physician entered the room wearing a surgical mask, which Dr. Mitchell swears looked not like a mask but a halo. She recognized this “angel” as Murray J. Cohen, MD, FACS. Dr. Cohen is not only Director of Jefferson’s Division of Acute Care Surgery, but he is also Dr. Mitchell’s longtime colleague and friend.

Dr. Mitchell laughs as she recalls her initial exchange with Dr. Cohen: “I said, ‘Murray, what are you doing in an emergency room at Paoli Hospital?!’ and he said, ‘I was going to ask you the same thing, but I can see you’re hurt!’”

That’s when Dr. Mitchell learned of – and began to benefit from – Paoli’s recent trauma accreditation. This joint effort between the Division of Acute Care Surgery at Jefferson and Paoli Hospital is the only accredited trauma center in Chester County (see sidebar).

“The trauma service at Paoli was able to take care of everything,” Dr. Mitchell concludes. “They performed an immediate assessment of my injuries and then delivered specifically targeted care – almost instantaneously.”

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