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Burn specialist receives surgical honor (6/16/98)

Basil A. Pruitt Jr., MD, clinical professor of surgery at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is the 1998 winner of the American Surgical Association's Medallion for Scientific Achievement. The honor, presented to Dr. Pruitt at the association's meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., is given only on rare occasions and is the highest the association bestows.

Previous winners include pioneering Houston surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey and Pittsburgh transplant trail-blazer Dr. Thomas Starzl. "All of the winners are on the list of the most prominent surgeons in the last century in the United States," noted William Strodel, MD, professor and chairman of the Health Science Center's department of surgery. "To be included in this group is an extremely important and high honor. Dr. Pruitt is obviously most deserving of this award."

For many years Dr. Pruitt was the Commander and Director of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (ISR), which operates the world-renowned Army Burn Center in San Antonio where military personnel and others worldwide were transferred for specialized and innovative burn treatment. "As I mentioned when the award was presented, I share this honor with all of the surgeons and physicians with whom I have worked at the burn center and at the Health Science Center during the past three decades," Dr. Pruitt said.

Research put into clinical practice at the burn center has led to great advances. "We have eliminated the occurrence of renal failure in burn patients, which at one time was a very common complication," Dr. Pruitt said. "We can prevent burn wound infections, and we have tamed inhalation injury. We have also defined the metabolic response to injury and developed nutritional support regimens to preserve lean body mass and accelerate the recovery of even the most severely burned patients. These advances have significantly increased the survival of burned and other injured patients throughout the world."

The honoree noted there is a great deal of synergy between the ISR, co-located with Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, and the Health Science Center's department of surgery.

Dr. Pruitt's many interests include trauma, surgical critical care and surgical infection control. Among his many military and civilian designations, he currently serves as the editor of the Journal of Trauma.

Contact: Will Sansom, (210) 567-2570