Saving Lives in Abu Dhabi

UAE creates a trauma, burn and rehabilitative medicine program with U.S. partners at Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City

When troops engage in combat, the need for rapid access to advanced trauma care is critical. The chances of surviving potentially fatal injuries rise dramatically when a highly capable hospital is located within an hour of the battlefield. Physicians call it the “golden hour.”

Thanks to a medical partnership between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States, Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC) in Abu Dhabi is developing advanced trauma, burn, and rehabilitative medicine capabilities that serve not just civilians across the region, but also battlefield casualties. 

The Trauma, Burn and Rehabilitative Medicine (TBRM) mission in Abu Dhabi involves doctors, nurses, and administrators from the U.S. military and the UAE Military Medical Services Corps. The U.S. and UAE team is partnered to build broad capabilities within a civilian hospital than can also provide wartime support in times of conflict.

“The TBRM effort will be a force multiplier for the U.S., UAE and all partner nations conducting operations within the Middle East region,” said Col. Brigilda Teneza, the TBRM program’s executive officer and a 24-year U.S. Army physician. “In addition, the trauma center will provide a future world-class training platform for Department of Defense trauma, burn and rehabilitative medicine specialists.”

The medical partnership — financed by the United Arab Emirates — began in 2018 as part of the U.S./UAE Defense Cooperation Road Map and Joint Military Dialogue. The newly opened Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City was a logical choice for the TBRM mission. With plans for 741 beds, 440 doctors and 1,800 nurses, it is the country’s largest hospital. It operates in partnership with the Mayo Clinic, a renowned medical center based in the U.S. In addition to its military component, the TBRM mission also engages officials from the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Co. and the U.S. Department of State.

Once it’s fully operational, the TBRM mission will include rotating deployments of surgeons, anesthesiologists, operating room nurses, and technicians. TBRM personnel will provide advice, training, mentorship and technical support to ultimately make SSMC a verified trauma center. 

Aside from its ability to care for critically injured troops, SSMC’s primary mission is to care for injured civilians in the UAE. SSMC is the lead trauma center within Abu Dhabi, admitting over 1,800 trauma patients in 2020 alone.

“The UAE healthcare sector already serves as a resource to an entire region of the world,” said U.S. Air Force trauma surgeon Lt. Col. Brian Gavitt. “The TBRM team’s mission is to harness the expertise that exists to establish a world-class multidisciplinary trauma system within Abu Dhabi that is integrated from point of injury to re-integration.  With the simultaneous development of trauma centers within a larger trauma system, post-injury survival rates will predictably improve.”

In the past, critically injured troops were often transported to military hospitals in places such as Germany. Among the priorities of U.S. Central Command was to improve combat casualty care among partner nations in the Middle East. The TBRM mission at SSMC is the first of its kind.

“With the collective leadership engaged and formal partnerships established, the critical elements are in place for long-term system success,” project organizers announced. “Ideally, the Middle East wartime TBRM continuum will never have to be utilized, but if it is required, we stand ready.”  

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