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USAISR Burn Center observes National Burn Awareness Week

Soldiers practicing burn care on dummies Soldiers with the 566th Area Support Medical Company treat simulated burn victims during a training exercise at Hohenfels, Germany in Nov. 2020. Training at JMRC provides USAREUR specific training, followed by a mission rehearsal exercise to hone the skills of the battle group headquarters prior to deployment to Kosovo. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Uriel Ramirez.)

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Since 2003, more than 1,200 U.S. service members have received ‘burn injuries’ requiring specialized burn care treatment and rehabilitation.

According to a National Center for Biotechnology Information reports, although, “Combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in up to 8.8% of combat-related casualties suffering burns.” However, the report also noted that “recent advances in acute military burn care have resulted in improved survival among combat-related burn patients”.

Much of this success is due to the staff at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR) Burn Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Feb 7 - 13 marks National Burn Awareness Week - which celebrates not only those providers who care for burn patients, but also those who survive, and go on to thrive. The week provides an opportunity for organizations like the USAISR Burn Center to mobilize burn, fire, and safety educators to unite in sharing common burn awareness and prevention messages in their communities.

“The ABA sets the standards for burn center verification.  We are one of five verified burn centers in the state of Texas and the only one in San Antonio,” said Brent Sabatino, a registered nurse at the Burn Center’s Intensive Care Unit. “This [National Burn Awareness Week] gives a specific time for organizations, institutions and municipalities to participate on a national level on educating the public on burn injury and prevention each year.”

Notably, Sabatino is the creator and coordinator of the “Burn Strong” program, a partnership between the USAISR and the San Antonio Fire Department, designed to train emergency medical technicians and paramedics on the basics of advanced burn and trauma life support care.

“The USAIR Burn Center is built on readiness which is supported by three tenants: research; clinical care; and education,” said Dr. Leopoldo “Lee” Cancio, Burn Center director. “Our primary mission is Research and Development. We drive advances in burn care as we provide multidisciplinary, specialized therapy to the sickest patients in the Department of Defense.”

“As a subordinate command of USAMRDC (U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command), we benefit from the mature science, technology and acquisition policies and procedures of MRDC in addressing vetted capability gaps,” added Cancio. “Our burn-centered research has led to fundamental advances in the multidisciplinary care of burn casualties which have become the standard for burn care throughout the world.”

Established in 1949, the USAISR Burn Center remains the first and only DOD burn center, and is the only military treatment facility collocated with a research laboratory which optimizes translational research. Since then, the Burn Center has cared for burn patients from all military conflicts, including more than one thousand patients from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom to date.

The Burn Center also serves as a regional burn center for South Texas and treats both military and civilian burn patients; efforts which help maintain clinical currency and further provide a readiness training platform opportunity.

Additionally, the ISR Burn Center hosts the Army Burn Flight Team. Comprised of qualified, specially trained personnel, the team has conducted nearly 100 overseas missions since 2003 and stands ready to deploy globally within 12 hours. This specialized team provides in-flight care for both military and civilian patients. When not on mission, members of the Burn Flight Team provide Direct CareDirect care refers to military hospitals and clinics, also known as “military treatment facilities” and “MTFs.”direct care for patients, and teach both the patient and their families about burn care.

“Community outreach and support is an important mission for the Burn Center in order to prevent burns and train personnel outside of the Burn Center how to care for burn casualties who present in other facilities or in the event of mass casualty,” said Cancio.

“Burn awareness should be something that is thought about every day,” explained Sabatino. “Please help others, if you see something done wrong, teach someone what you know. If you are unsure of what you are dealing with or handling, don’t take risks. Safety first, you can save a life, your own and others.”

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