The Untold Story About the Making of a Level I Trauma Center

By Michael S. Truitt, MD
Medical Director of Trauma Services
Methodist Dallas Medical Center

If you’re a nurse and your passion is caring for patients who have experienced major trauma, then you should consider expanding your career at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. Why? I’m proud to say that Methodist Dallas has recently achieved verification as a Level I trauma center by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the Committee on Trauma (COT). This signifies that Methodist Dallas provides the highest level of trauma and emergency care available.

But it didn’t happen overnight. For more than 20 years, Methodist Dallas has served as a destination for trauma patients in the Dallas area as a Level II trauma center, and our patient outcomes have been outstanding. During this time, the ACS repeatedly noted in our reviews that we were functioning at the highest end of Level II status, seeing more than 1,800 trauma patients annually. As the only trauma center in southern Dallas County and a regional referral center for other hospitals in North Texas, the critical care demands were growing.

As a result, the Methodist Health System board of directors and executive leadership began planning for a new critical care tower for the Methodist Dallas campus to meet the growing needs of the community. As our critical care capacity grew, the logical next step was to elevate our trauma program to achieve the Level 1 trauma center status.

How are we different from other trauma centers? As the medical director of trauma services and someone who works side by side with our staff, I know how valuable our nurses are. In fact, in my opinion, our nurses are the foundation of exceptional trauma care. And the nurses at Methodist are some of the most talented, dedicated nurses I have ever known. The acuity of our patients is one of the main reasons nurses want to work with us, but it’s also the culture and spirit of collaboration. For every one physician who comes into contact with a patient, there may be 20 or 30 nurses also touching that patient. We respect what each team member contributes to help save lives, and we continually work together to deliver the highest quality of care to our patients.

Becoming a Level I trauma center required a complete team effort with our physicians, nurses, administration, and the board of trustees and support from the community. But what’s a Level I designation really require? Here’s what Methodist Dallas is doing to meet some of COT’s rigid requirements:

  • Publish trauma research papers in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Sponsor outreach and injury-prevention programs such as geriatric nursing home programs to prevent falls, programs to reduce speed limits in areas with high accident rates, and more.
  • Provide a comprehensive 24/7 surgeon-led surgical service in the ICU, plus we started a critical care fellowship.
  • Expand the breadth of services, so we’ve hired additional neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and interventional radiologists, and we’ve developed and refined protocols to take care of urgent and emergent medical conditions.
  • We use our performance improvement programs to continuously monitor our outcomes, looking at things like mechanism of injury, how patients present, and how our trauma center’s outcomes compare to national benchmarks.

None of this would have been possible were it not for the efforts of Ernest Dunn, MD, the program director of Methodist Dallas’ general surgery program. He is the father of the trauma program at Methodist Dallas and steered it to Level II status. We owe him a large debt of gratitude for his foresight and unwavering commitment to trauma care.

If you want to join the legacy of excellence in trauma care, it’s time to choose Methodist Health System. Learn more by visiting

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