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CUMC enters new chapter of trauma care ready for any challenge

The trauma center at Creighton University Medical Center (CUMC) is the cornerstone of a regional trauma program that stretches from Kearney, Neb. to Council Bluffs, Iowa. It is the only program that includes a nationally certified burn center and nationally certified rehabilitation center.

“We are ready to serve the region as the premiere trauma program,” said Cliff Robertson, M.D., chief executive officer of the Network, which includes Alegent Creighton Health. “Building on the strength of our entire Network, we have subspecialists, both employed and private practice, who will bring their expertise to the trauma team.”

Leading the program is a man who wrote the trauma textbook used in medical schools across the country. Juan A. Asensio, M.D. is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in trauma surgery.

“We are very fortunate to have a physician of Dr. Asensio’s stature, talent and passion lead our regional trauma team as we move to 24/7 trauma care,” said Kevin Nokels, President of CUMC. “He is a man whose energy is not limited to the hospital. He takes a very proactive approach to trauma by meeting violence where it happens – in the community.”

Asensio, who co-authored the textbook on trauma surgery, earned his medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago, completed his surgical residency at Northwestern University in Chicago and completed his fellowship in trauma surgery and surgical critical care at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center/Southwestern Medical School-Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas. Asensio is licensed in eight states and has received surgical fellowships in more than 80 countries. He is double board certified in surgery and surgical critical care and is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. 

Asensio said he is coming to Omaha because he enjoys being around people who really want to do something good, something positive and he believes he has found that in CUMC.

“One thing I have tried to do in my career is try to be at places where you can make a contribution in terms of making absolutely sure that fellow American citizens have equal access to healthcare, and particularly trauma care,” said Dr. Asensio. “I always thought that it was always better to build. It’s not -1- what you take, it’s what you leave behind. If you teach other people, they’ll come back. They’ll remember you fondly and say, ‘My professor taught me that.’”

Students at Creighton University will find a teacher and mentor in Asensio who, along with Donald Trunkey, M.D., authored the textbook Current Therapy of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care. He is a visiting professor who has given named lectures both nationally and internationally.

“Dr. Asensio is a renowned trauma physician, and I am excited to have him join Creighton University School of Medicine. He has the vision to keep the medical school at the forefront of the field – education, research, patient care and community involvement,” said Robert W. Dunlay, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine.

A native of Havana, Cuba, Asensio immigrated to Chicago at the age of 13. His childhood experiences both in Cuba and America set him on a course to heal.

“I saw a lot of people get killed in the street during Castro’s Revolution. And I thought probably the noblest thing I could do was to be in a profession that’s dedicated to save lives,” Asensio recalled.

His commitment to healing extends beyond the trauma center. Asensio’s social conscience has led him into the communities he serves. He has talked with some 18,000 teenagers across the country about violence, gangs and poverty, something he happens to know a lot about.

“I grew up in poverty, and when you grow up in poverty, it gives you a different perspective on life. Poverty is the worst disease I know. It cuts across every single conceivable line that you can imagine. If you’re poor, that’s a whole different world,” said Asensio.

And he has dedicated his life to make it a better one. Now in Omaha, Asensio is building a brilliant trauma team, already welcoming trauma surgeon, Robert Bertellotti, M.D., who starts on Aug. 1; and he is building a second team focused on trauma and violence prevention.

Asensio believes Omaha is blessed to have two strong trauma centers. “I think it benefits the community. I mean, every single conceivable turn in the road, there is somebody getting shot, there is some kind of a disaster or some kind of an accident. So I think there is room for everyone to work positively and collegially, bringing to the table the very best of their skills.”

About Alegent Creighton Health Alegent Creighton Health and the Catholic Health Initiatives organizations in Nebraska are integrating to create a single, regional health network with a unified mission: nurturing the healing ministry of the Church while creating healthier communities. Headquartered in Omaha, the combined organization will consist of 16 hospitals, two stand-alone behavioral health facilities and more than 150 employed physician practice locations in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa. Nearly 15,900 employees comprise the workforce of this network that includes 2,820 licensed beds and serves as the primary teaching partner of Creighton University’s health sciences schools. In fiscal year 2013, the organization provided a combined $130.7 million in quantified community benefit including services for the poor, free clinics, education and research. With locations stretching from Kearney, Neb. to Missouri Valley, Iowa, the health network is the largest in Nebraska and serves residents of Nebraska, southwest Iowa and northern Kansas.