Rajan Gupta, MD, MHCDS ‘16
Chief, Acute Care Surgery, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
Almost by definition, trauma is unexpected—the result of an accident most never see coming. So how do you design a system to deal with such events when they occur? That is the question that has concerned Rajan Gupta as a member of the American College of Surgeons’ trauma systems committee, which helps states refine their networks for treating and supporting trauma victims.
“There is a lot of variability among the states—some are very robust in injury prevention and front-line care, while others simply are not,” says Gupta, who also serves as chief of acute care surgery at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. Nearly all states, meanwhile, fall short in rehabilitative services to help victims recover after an accident occurs. “That back-end rehabilitation is often not prioritized, and, despite its critical importance in getting victims back to a functional status, funding for it is very, very low.” Making matters worse, many states don’t have good systems to even measure their performance or identify where gaps in care exist, says Gupta.
As former chief of acute care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Gupta was well aware of Dartmouth’s national reputation for using data to analyze care, and turned to its Master of Health Care Delivery Science program to help him develop a framework for determining optimal levels of trauma care. “We are constantly being asked, What are the appropriate elements of care and how should they be positioned? For example, what is the ideal number of Level 1 trauma centers for a population?” asks Gupta. “Boston has five for 1 million people, while Houston has two for 6 million people. Which is better? And what does it cost to have that level of care available in each city? How do we begin to define optimal outcomes for this puzzle?”
Already, says Gupta, MHCDS courses in health care economics and finance have helped him better determine how to ask those questions, if not given him the answers—yet. “I am able to speak the language and develop ideas about how we can look into this on a national level,” he says. “Quite honestly, these are not the kind of things you learn in medical school. Now I feel like I can combine my knowledge as a clinician with the tools to be more effective as a leader and policy-shaper.”
With a full slate of patients in addition to his national committee work, Gupta has also appreciated being able to develop those skills remotely, and on his own schedule. “On the occasion when I am stuck in the operating room and miss our Tuesday class, I can watch the recorded session and submit my assignment the following morning,” he says. “The whole program has been structured so that professionals, even those with demanding and unpredictable schedules, can effectively work with their classmates, complete the coursework and assignments, and gain the full benefits of participation.”