Dr. Kelsey Berndt, trauma surgeon and medical director of the surgical intensive care unit at Regions Hospital, is one of a growing number of women surgeons in leadership that are breaking through stereotypes and barriers of mistrust both inside and outside the operating room. In this episode of Off the Charts, we talk about the obstacles that women face in a still male-dominated field and the role that trauma centers play in helping communities affected by violence. Listen to the episode or read the transcript.
Changing stereotypes and redefining expectations
The stereotype that follows surgeons – aggressive, rigid and exacting – can be hard to transform, especially for women new to the male-dominated field. And while it’s easier for women to establish themselves today, the feeling that “you can be respected or you can be liked, but you can’t be both” can make an already stressful career even more taxing.
As a highly respected and well-liked trauma surgeon, Dr. Berndt has proven that it’s possible to be both. However, she admits that it’s a narrow window to fit between two extremes – one that’s hard for all women, and even more difficult for women of color.
By being both assertive and approachable, Dr. Berndt is helping to create a more positive image of surgeons, which she hopes will encourage others to join the field. And since “you can’t be what you can’t see,” the importance of bringing more diversity to the field, along with different perspectives and viewpoints, is crucial.
The Regions Hospital Level I Trauma Center
Dr. Berndt is the medical director of the surgical intensive care unit at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, the first Minnesota hospital to be verified as a Level I trauma center for both adults and children. With the highest level of trauma care available, Regions has a fully staffed emergency department with surgeons that are in-house 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In addition, the Regions Hospital Level I Trauma Center has access to a comprehensive range of specialists in neurosurgery, plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery, intensive care and more. When treating children, trauma surgeons also partner with pediatric specialists from Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, providing a multidisciplinary approach.
Reaching out to the community
As a trauma surgeon, Dr. Berndt sees the devastating impact of violence first-hand. Affecting more than the physically injured, its effects ripple into the emotional and economic well-being of the community. Fortunately, community violence is being viewed more frequently through a public health lens.
Working with community groups, Regions is in the beginning stages of creating a hospital-based violence interruption program, as well as continuing to build relationships and trust with members of the community in case an emergency happens. Also, by including social workers early in the treatment of trauma patients, needed resources can be identified early. Later, trauma patients can be connected to community resources, addiction medicine services, screenings for housing security and domestic violence, and more. It’s all done with the aim of breaking the destructive cycles of violence and improving the overall health of the communities served by Regions.
Listen to the episode to find out more about the positive impact a trauma center can have in the community and the excitement Dr. Berndt has in “finding the calm in the chaos.”