Boston Israeli critical care specialist Dr. Pinchas Halpern is used to dealing with terror attacks. As director of emergency medicine at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center since 1993, Halpern has had no choice but to become an expert on mass casualties. In the wake of the Boston marathon bombings, when three people were killed and another 282 injured, he was one of the first people U.S. doctors treating the severely wounded victims at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center called to discuss the logistics of handling casualties of the horrific attack. Just one year earlier, Halpern had spent a few weeks at the hospital’s emergency department as a visiting professor, sharing his experience with terror attacks, including best practices for mobilizing hospital staff in response to a mass disaster. “Boston has one of the best medical systems – perhaps the best — in the world,” Halpern says. But Israeli expertise is considered second to none in organizing hospitals’ methods of response to a multiple casualty incident (MCI). And that is what his colleagues called him to talk over. While Israeli hospitals have had ample opportunity to fine-tune these procedures through years of war and terror attacks, particularly the difficult second intifada years when the nation was hit by a string of bombings, Halpern explains that major trauma generally accounts for a small portion of emergency medicine, perhaps 1.5 percent of the entire patient load. The president and emergency department director at Beth Israel Deaconess are both Israeli-born, Israeli-educated physicians. Dr. David Spector, on staff at Tufts Medical Center, where 18 victims were rushed from the horrific scene, was formerly a surgeon at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and served in the Air Force’s Airborne Rescue and Evacuation Unit.
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