With more than 41,000 patient visits in the last year, the emergency department (ED) at Jefferson Regional is in constant motion.

As a Level 3 Trauma Center, many of those ED visits are traumatic injuries from all across South Arkansas, ranging from automobile accidents to gunshot wounds.

Now that a third designated trauma surgeon has joined the medical staff at Jefferson Regional, the program is generating even more benefits for both patients and physicians.

“With three trauma surgeons, we now have a full-fledged trauma and acute care surgery service,” says General Surgeon Lee Morisy, M.D., FACS, who joined the Jefferson Regional Medical Staff in April of 2019. Dr. Morisy has been a general surgeon for more than 40 years and spent approximately 14 years as Director of Trauma Services for Baptist Hospital in Memphis. “Since I had experience setting up this type of program, I felt it was something that would really benefit Jefferson Regional, the community and the other physicians.”

“Basically, there is now always a surgeon here to take care of the most seriously ill people at the hospital,” Morisy continued. “At the same time, it relieves the other surgeons so they can plan their schedules and devote their time to elective patients. They were very good about covering the trauma cases but they also had their own private patients. Typically, we would work three, four, five days at a time, but if there were five days between the time two trauma surgeons could be here, there might be three or four different surgeons seeing these patients, which was ok but not ideal. Now, the three of us each take 10 days a month. It’s a system where you have seamless coverage.”

The other members of the trauma physician team are J.R. Taylor, III, M.D., FACS, and Leigh Anna Robinson, M.D.

Dr. Taylor came to Jefferson Regional in November of 2019. He graduated with a B.S. in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore before receiving his medical degree from the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville. He then completed a residency in General Surgery from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, and completed a fellowship in Trauma/Surgical Critical Care at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. He was also recently named a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and he is very pleased with the development of the trauma program. “We are the place everyone in South Arkansas comes to when they have trouble with their gallbladder, their appendix, or a traumatic injury. A lot of that is a testament to the providers in the ED and the types of patients they see and take care of every day. Then the trauma team can focus on the surgical stuff and the people who need care in the ICU.”

In the summer of 2021, Leigh Anna Robinson, M.D. rounded out the team by joining the medical staff. Dr. Robinson received her medical degree from Tulane University in New Orleans and completed a general surgery residency at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She then completed a surgical critical care fellowship at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

“What drove me to be a surgeon and a critical care physician is that you can provide definitive care and continue to provide peri-operative care, both pre- and post-op,” said Dr. Robinson. “Although you still rely on other people to help, you can do the definitive management yourself.”

As with any other specialty, this team recognizes the importance of close collaboration with the rest of the medical staff. “I have a good relationship with the three orthopaedic surgeons we have on staff, and we can discuss what they’re comfortable taking care of,” Dr. Taylor said. “From experience, I know what they might be interested in, or I’ll call them about a case and say, ‘Hey, I’m here. If you’re comfortable taking care of this, I can do all the rest.’ You have to know what your partners are comfortable with and what they aren’t. There are five other general surgeons – three of them do elective vascular surgeries – so if I have a bad vascular case, I’m calling one of them in the middle of the night to come help me. I’ve never had them not answer the phone, and they’re always willing to come in and lend a hand. “

Dr. Morisy agrees. “A collaborative effort is essential. There’s still plenty of room to grow, not just locally but regionally, to become a more full-service center for the entire Southeast Arkansas area. Because we have younger surgeons now, who have trained in newer modalities, we are able to offer new kinds of procedures that have never been here and are not widely available. It’s a great opportunity to improve the quality of care all the way around.”

“I feel very fortunate to be here at this time,” said Dr. Robinson. “Sometimes we rely on our big, academic centers and Level 1 trauma centers for this type of program, and it’s nice to be able to bring this level of care to residents of this area.”

Dr. Morisy echoed Dr. Robinson’s opinion that Jefferson Regional is tapping into a national trend. “More and more hospitals, especially any hospital with a busy ED, are going this way because it’s too disruptive to the flow of elective business to always have interruptions. It also lets us focus on the care of those particular patients. A few years ago, they split off the hospitalists and the office-based physicians and now you’re seeing the same thing in surgery and even in ortho and other specialties. For a long time, as Dr. Robinson said, it was only the university centers that were able to offer this because they had residents and students and plenty of personnel. But now we’ve developed this model where one of the trauma and acute care surgeons is available 24/7 for a period of time, and then another physician takes over.”

“I think getting a very good baseline training, being comfortable doing a very broad spectrum of things will allow us to be a resource for these more rural hospitals,” said Dr. Taylor. “The best part of my job is the fact that there is no point in time where I can’t take care of a patient. I can do the operating, I can do the critical care, I can do all the other care and then I can see them afterward.”

“Basically, we all take care of patients the same way,” said Dr. Morisy. “We all function interchangeably, so it doesn’t matter whether you get hurt on Tuesday, or Wednesday or Friday; you may have a different surgeon but the same quality of care. No matter what happens, Jefferson Regional has the full-service trauma coverage that is needed in this region.”