Kevin Schuster, MD, MPH, is an acute care surgeon who specializes in general surgery, trauma and surgical critical care. He treats such common emergencies as gall bladder inflammation and rib fractures, as well as complex trauma. "Every day is different,” he says. “One day, it's a straightforward case of a patient with acute appendicitis; the next day I'm taking care of a patient with a gunshot wound with multiple injuries in hemorrhagic shock.”
Dr. Schuster and his fellow trauma surgeons sometimes work 24/7, performing surgeries at 3 in the morning and on weekends. Surgery is the easy part, he says. “One of the challenges in the emergency room is that you might have to discuss life and death issues with people you met just 10 minutes ago,” he says. “I won't say everything will be okay when it's not, and I won't set the stage for a terrible outcome when a good one is likely. I try to be honest and with patients.”
Because better medical and surgical approaches result in most patients surviving emergencies and needing continued care, Dr. Schuster says he is more likely to develop doctor-patient relationships with patients after the acute emergency is over. “Even though or, perhaps, because you meet them at their most critical times, they remember,” he says. “Several patients still send me Christmas cards.”
An associate professor of surgery (general surgery, trauma and critical care) at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Schuster takes a lead role in addressing quality issues in the Department of Surgery. His research interests include long-term outcomes in trauma patients and the optimization of emergency general surgery care.