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January 31, 2003


Dr. Robert Harris Appointed New Chief of Orthopaedic Trauma at Grady Memorial Hospital

ATLANTA -- Robert M. Harris, MD, associate professor of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine in the Department of Orthopaedics and former U.S. Army orthopaedic surgeon, is the new chief of orthopaedic surgery/trauma at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Harris has already introduced a new focus on teamwork, efficiency and research to the orthopaedic unit, in an attempt to bring a new level of patient care to Grady patients, who can include persons from across the state of Georgia and throughout the Southeast. As the new chief of orthopaedics, his plans include hiring staff to establish an orthopaedic clinical trials research database to advance future patient care in this specialty, and aggressively marketing the Department of Orthopaedics to prospective patients living outside of Fulton and DeKalb counties.

"This was a good challenge for me at the midpoint of my career to try to turn the Orthopaedic Department at Grady into something that is productive, academically active and provides the best possible care anywhere in a timely fashion," Dr. Harris said. "My philosophy is that we’re here to take care of the patients first, to do the right thing, and to provide the best possible care in the entire Southeast," he said.

Since coming to Grady in November 2002, Dr. Harris has added new staff including Lisa Cannada, MD, an orthopaedic traumatologist and chief of spine trauma. The staff also includes George Wright, MD, who handles adult reconstruction, hand and upper extremity; and Gary McGillivary, MD, a hand surgeon. Sanda Tomak, MD, and Justin Cashman, MD, will both join the department in February as foot and ankle specialists.

As the new chief of orthopaedics, Dr. Harris says that some of his primary goals include increasing efficiency in the operating room. As part of this effort, three teams of nurses and scrub technicians have been hired to staff orthopaedic operating rooms three to four days each week.

"What this does is improve efficiency in the operating room so we’re not changing schedules at the last minute," Dr. Harris explained. "We make sure that patients are fully prepared to go to the operating room before we actually post them. And there’s no delay or cancellation of cases based on the orthopaedic pre-operative plan."

Dr. Harris has mandated that at least 75 percent of operating rooms start on time, with no changes in the schedule, while one room is kept flexible for trauma surgery.

Dr. Harris has also revamped the team concept, in that the Department of Orthopaedics has gone from three teams to two teams. There are now four residents per team, with three permanent staff per team. As a staff-directed, resident-run service, a staff physician is responsible for every patient on the orthopaedic service.

Dr. Harris plans for the Department of Orthopaedics to increase its academic emphasis to remain on the leading edge of orthopaedic patient care and resident training. Trauma lectures are held on Tuesday afternoons, case reports are presented on Thursdays, and quality assurance conferences are held quarterly on Fridays.

His other goal includes research. Dr. Harris is looking for many sources of research funding from the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health. He is also examining the possibility of research teams to evaluate the quality of care being provided at Grady.

Dr. Harris is also focused on hiring staff to establish and maintain a prospective orthopaedic database, and is currently working with David Feliciano, MD, Emory University School of Medicine professor and chief of surgery at Grady, to create a database from which the Department of Orthopaedics can operate. He also plans to hire research assistants to assist in the effort.

Dr. Harris received his undergraduate degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and his medical degree from the University of Virginia. He completed his orthopaedic residency at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. He was then assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C., where he was staff orthopaedic surgeon and orthopaedic surgeon for the Special Operations Unit.

As part of his army training, Dr. Harris has served in Somalia, Haiti, and the Persian Gulf. "I’ve seen some real world casualties," he said. Dr. Harris completed his orthopaedic fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. From there, he worked at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, where he supervised a research lab, and then directed the orthopaedic trauma service at the Brooke Army Medical Center, which handled 40 percent of the city’s trauma cases in San Antonio. The medical team there conducted several prospective studies in orthopaedic trauma, landmine injuries and Department of Defense-sponsored work in protective equipment with people involved in de-mining activities around the world.

In 2000, Dr. Harris accepted a position at Fort Detrick in Maryland, where he continued his research in landmines. He also served on the trauma staff at the University of Maryland-Shock Trauma Unit in Baltimore, which sees as many as 7,000 patients every year. He was on faculty at the University of Miami and worked as an orthopaedic trauma surgeon the Ryder Trauma Center in Florida. His experience also includes the U.S. Army Trauma Training Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where the main mission was to train the army surgical teams going to Afghanistan.

Dr. Harris plans to market the Department of Orthopaedics to prospective patients throughout the state of Georgia. "Since we are the largest trauma center in the state of Georgia and have the expertise that most others don’t, we hope to attract some of the more larger or complex injuries to come to Grady. We just want to get the word out there that we are here, we’re the ones who can take care of the stuff that nobody else can."

His plans also include working to establish step-down units within Grady as part of a total care package that includes evaluation and surgical management. Dr. Harris also wants to locate funding for uninsured trauma patients, and envisions the Department of Orthopaedics being part of a super-specialized trauma center in five to 10 years.

"I have big plans for this place," he said.

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