Far too often we take it for granted. We forget it is there and yet, when we need it most, mercifully, fearlessly and heroically it appears.
It swoops in after a natural disaster.
And rises up to boldly confront the threat of an unexpected viral disease.
It is an interconnected network of remarkable people who are there for each of us in an emergency, devoting themselves to our community. It includes medical and public health professionals, and first responders — police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel, to name just a few – who embrace a responsibility to serve, protect and care in our time of greatest need.
As a leading medical foundation with many years devoted to building health care in this region, we are especially attuned to the skills and readiness of our medical community. We recall the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when doctors and nurses across our region cared for more than 26,000 evacuees who made their way to shelters in and around Dallas.
We are reminded of the medical and civic leaders who stared down the Ebola virus, and put protocols and new programs in place as a growing epidemic of fear swept across the city.
“We are fortunate to have such remarkable men and women as first responders; our police, fire, medical, and volunteer community give so much each and every day.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings
And we remember with great sadness the tragedy that took place July 7th one year ago, when a sniper gunned down 12 police officers in downtown Dallas, leaving five dead – Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa – brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our community.
It was a night when a peaceful protest against fatal police shootings of black men in other parts of the country instantly turned to chaos, and one when then-Dallas Police Chief David Brown faced an unspeakable atrocity. "I knew this was a really important moment for the country. I knew that right away … I also knew that if we were going to resolve this, it would take everything I had and that nobody else could help me with it,” Chief Brown recalled. “As a city, as a country, the aftermath of this could go very, very bad for policing … or we could start a healing process between police and communities if I performed at my best.”
By the time the staff of Parkland Memorial Hospital's Rees-Jones Trauma Center received word of gunshots fired, the first victim had arrived. Parkland would eventually receive 10 of those 14 victims (12 officers from the Dallas Police Department and Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police Department, and two civilians), including three officers who, ultimately, could not be saved. The others were taken to Baylor Medical Center.
Since 2004, Parkland’s trauma center has maintained a unique partnership with the Dallas Police Department. Four trauma center physicians serve dual roles as UT Southwestern faculty members and as officers in the Department’s SWAT unit. Leading the Dallas Police Tactical Medical Support Team is Lieutenant and Dr. Alex Eastman.
“Our goal is to take world-class trauma care into some challenging environments. On July 7th, having our team in the field allowed not only direct medical care but also allowed us to provide real-time intelligence and updates to the Parkland and Baylor surgical teams to help ensure that they were prepared to receive the officers and any additional casualties,” said Dr. Eastman.
While the national attention and context given the shootings would distinguish that night from any other, what remained unchanged and ever-present was the skill and extraordinary level of care given to each person. Not just to the 10 victims of that evening’s tragic event, but also to all 130 patients who arrived needing help during and after the time the shooting victims arrived.
In the days that followed, Chief Brown spoke. Not just to the citizens of Dallas, but his words became part of the national discussion. He asked his community to step in and help. He asked that we consider not just what we can do collectively, but what each of us can do individually. He asked each of us to be patriots.
Adrian Garcia, the former sheriff of Harris County (which includes Houston), said, “The nation witnessed Chief Brown handle the aftermath of tragedy with the utmost grace and composure, with thoughtful words and incredible personal strength.”
“We are fortunate to have such remarkable men and women as first responders; our police, fire, medical, and volunteer community give so much each and every day,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.
At Southwestern Medical Foundation, we believe in the health of our community. We know it takes our first responders, our heroes and, in the truest sense of the word, our patriots. We also know it takes each of us to take responsibility for what we can do to help and to lead.
It is an act of patriotism that extends far beyond fireworks and flags, and gives to each of us a profound gift – the peace of mind of knowing that leaders stand ready to put their skills and training and humanity to work for the benefit of the people of this community.
To those who have served and sacrificed, to the patriots to whom we owe so much, we are grateful and honored to serve with you and to be a part of this, a truly great city.