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Highly Experienced Trauma Surgeon Joins New Trauma Center

  • Category: Trauma
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Highly Experienced Trauma Surgeon Joins New Trauma Center

Trauma surgeon Kevin J. Mitchell, MD, of Washington Hospital Healthcare System’s (WHHS) Trauma Center, says that caring for trauma patients is one of the most rewarding areas of medicine.

The new associate medical director of the Trauma Program joined the team in June, just in time for its July 1 opening. Dr. Mitchell comes to the trauma center from Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael, where he was general surgery division chief.

“The Hospital’s new trauma center is a beacon of light for our community members,” said Dr. Mitchell. “For me, it’s a great way to give back.”

The challenge of helping to start a level II trauma center was alluring to Dr. Mitchell, who is teaming up with the Trauma Center’s Medical Director Chet Morrison, MD. “I’ve been working in trauma care for more than 30 years, and never had the opportunity to start a center from the ground up,” Dr. Mitchell shared. “The need in the community for a trauma center has been demonstrated, and we’re the best place to start one.”

Certified by the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Mitchell has overseen many trauma cases in his career, including injuries from car accidents, falls, and stab wounds—sometimes to the heart and other vital organs. He’s happy to share his expertise with Southern Alameda County patients, who had to be transported up to 45 minutes to trauma centers in Castro Valley or Santa Clara County before WHHS opened its center on July 1.

Treatment Within the Golden Hour

“In trauma, it’s called the ‘golden hour’,” explained Dr. Mitchell, which refers to providing swift treatment within an hour. “Trauma isn’t something you ever want, but if you’re injured, you want to be treated right away. It was determined by studies 40 or 50 years ago that trauma patients have the best outcomes when they’re treated within an hour of their injury. The standard is to get patients to a trauma center as fast as possible, stabilize them, and provide care from a trauma specialist.”

Dr. Mitchell first became interested in trauma while a medical student at Howard University in Washington, D.C., studying under renowned professor and surgeon LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., MD. Later, as a surgical resident at Northwestern and Howard universities, Dr. Mitchell chose to specialize in trauma surgery.

“It was a specialty that a lot of general surgeons stayed away from, and I had a natural affinity for it,” he said. “It has been a good choice for me. It’ a good way to give back to the community. I can help people in a very critical time of need.”

Under Dr. Leffall, Dr. Mitchell learned what he calls “equanimity under duress”– mental calmness and composure–which has served him well. “Trauma surgeons keep their cool and help the trauma team stay focused. We’re like the conductor of the orchestra.”

Dr. Mitchell is quick to credit his childhood pediatrician for inspiring him to go into medicine in the first place. Growing up in Chicago, where much of his family still lives (including his 97-year-old dad), Dr. Mitchell’s pediatrician was an old-school African American pediatrician who lived in the neighborhood and made house calls.

“I remember he spoke in big words, was really smart, and very impressive,” Dr. Mitchell said with a smile. “I knew from as young as 5, that I wanted to be a doctor like him.”

A Howard University Education

As an older child, Dr. Mitchell realized that his pediatrician went to Howard University, and he decided that he, too, wanted to attend that college. “I knew that Howard produced black doctors, and I wanted to go to that place.”

Dr. Mitchell was accepted into Howard’s six-year Bachelor of Science-Medical Degree program, which gave students a jumpstart on their medical training, provided that they maintained a 3.5 grade point average.

Dr. Mitchell graduated the youngest in his class at age 23. “I was a young doctor. I knew a little about medicine and nothing about life.”

“The thing about trauma,” he added, “is that it affects a cross section of society. Anyone can be a trauma patient, but it disproportionately affects disadvantaged people.” One of the latest trends in trauma today is providing care to elderly people who sustain broken bones and head injuries due to falls.

The Best of the Best

WHHS trauma center patients can rest assured that they’re being cared for by the most qualified trauma specialists, according to Dr. Mitchell. “We want the Hospital to be a highly functioning level II trauma center, serving the local community. The administration here has been very enthusiastic about putting everything in place to make that happen. We have the finest of the finest.”

The father of two grown children, Dr. Mitchell is an avid runner and has participated in eight marathons and many half-marathons. He loves to travel and prides himself on being a people person.

For more information on the trauma center at Washington Hospital, visit