Thoughts from the Dean

Wounded, Deeply

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December 17, 2012
Wounded, Deeply

For millennia, a fundamental responsibility of physicians has been caring for the wounds of their patients. Applying salve and ointment, removing dead or diseased tissue, covering and binding with bandages, these are the actions most associated with trauma care. As with so much of medical care, however, the evolution and maturation of techniques, tools, and ideas have brought changes to the diagnosis and treatment of trauma. Time has even brought changes to the scope of what we in the medical profession think of as wounds; psychological and social traumas are ready examples.

Such progress and innovation is bedrock to the research and clinical care undertaken by members of the community of Harvard Medical School. The current issue of Harvard Medicine magazine, for example, gives us ample evidence of the School’s innovation in something as fundamental as wound care. As described in the magazine, work by HMS researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital is improving outcomes for burn patients and paving the way for an artificial skin that will mimic natural tissue. Diagnosis and treatment of brain traumas, injuries that plague members of the military serving in war zones and that concern a growing number of athletes of all ages, are being developed and refined through the efforts of HMS investigators at Spaulding, Brigham and Women’s, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Wounds to spirit and psyche are also addressed by caregivers at HMS, evidenced by the work of child-care experts at the School’s teaching hospitals who guard against the traumas that sickness and hospitalization can bring to their young patients and by the updated use of the ages-old comfort offered the sick by canine companions.

The HMS community is one characterized by a diversity of people, backgrounds, and skills. It is also a community anointed with a diversity of ideas. That richness allows us to push the envelope in areas already considered cutting edge, and it allows us to innovate ways to better address the injuries that have historically prompted people to seek out physicians. The pages of our magazine and the pages of this website tell these stories of progress. I invite you to explore this issue of Harvard Medicine.