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Gage Ochsner, M.D., Saved Thousands of Lives

December 13, 2013

Originally published May 06, 2013

M. Gage Ochsner Jr., M.D., one of Georgia's most prominent trauma surgeons who worked to overhaul the state's trauma system, died April 26 of lung cancer. He was 59.

Ochsner was the chief of trauma and surgical critical care at Memorial University Medical Center (MUMC) in Savannah, where he operated on more than 10,000 patients, according to a Savannah Morning News report.

"It didn't matter if you were the bank president or a bank robber, he treated you all the same," said colleague Carl Boyd, M.D., in the report.

Ochsner was remembered for his vision to improve the quality of and access to trauma care for all patients around the state. He also worked to establish the Institute for Injury Research and Prevention at MUMC, which launched last November with the goal of reducing and preventing injuries through research, training, education and outreach.

Patrick O'Neal, M.D., director of health protection at the Georgia Department of Public Health, called Ochsner an eloquent advocate for developing a robust trauma system in Georgia, the organization of care and prevention that works to treat injuries more efficiently or keep them from happening altogether.

"Dr. Ochsner was a visionary who saw how we could reduce lives lost from injury, prevent serious injuries and improve the outcomes of those whose injuries couldn't be prevented. His vision was of an integrated system where data would be shared and analyzed among pre-hospital providers, trauma centers, trauma caregivers and rehabilitation professionals in the effort to reduce traumatic morbidity and mortality in Georgia.  Although we have lost Dr. Ochsner, we must not lose his vision," O'Neal said.

According to the Savannah Morning News report, Ochsner came from a prominent medical family. His grandfather, Alton Ochsner, M.D., founder of the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans, was the first physician to link tobacco smoking with lung cancer in a paper published in 1939.

Ochsner is remembered for his larger-than-life personality, his love of family and friends and his devotion to patients and his staff. Mark Murphy, M.D., a Savannah physician and friend of Ochsner's, recalled Ochsner's influence in a tribute published in the Savannah Morning News.

"An inspiration to medical students and surgical residents alike, he made them want to not only be better doctors; he made them want to be better people. He was tireless in his crusade to do the 'right thing' for each and every patient," Murphy wrote.

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