A meeting of medical minds: Retired doctors Mudge, Simon renew friendship

Retired Marquette General Hospital physician Tom Mudge, left, and Bob Simon, who also worked at MGH, visit at Mudge’s home on Saturday. Simon talked about Mudge’s contributions to local emergency and international emergency medicine. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — Transforming how war-torn countries handle medical emergencies is something that one local doctor, and a doctor who recently visited him, have in common.

Not many people can say that.

Bob Simon, professor emeritus and founding chairman of emergency medicine for Cook County Hospitals/ Rush University Medical Center, also is founder and chairman of the board of the International Medical Corps.

The nonprofit organization got its start in Marquette with the help of Tom Mudge, a former surgeon at what was then known as Marquette General Hospital.

Simon on Saturday flew in from Kalamazoo to visit Mudge, who lives in Marquette Township with his daughter Kathleen.

Mudge is about to turn 102 — with the legacy to show for it.

“My dad last summer was asking me, ‘I wonder where Bob is? What’s Bob up to?'” she said.

She then reached out to the retired Simon, 72, who she noted was “wonderful enough” to make the Saturday visit.

The visit allowed Kathleen Mudge to learn more about the accomplishments of her father, who she said would help Simon in the International Medical Corps for a month at a time during the Afghan war and train the locals in surgical techniques.

Mudge’s transformational efforts, however, were not limited to overseas.

“What he did for Marquette was amazing,” Simon said.

Simon said he and Mudge worked together at MGH from 1976 to 1980. At that time, the hospital was staffed by doctors who were part of a group operated by profit-motivated management not familiar with dealing with trauma.

Mudge, as leader of the head surgical group at MGH, took action.

“Tom Mudge went to the CEO and to the board of that hospital and told them, ‘We have to have a real ER,'” Simon said. “He got me to be chairman of that ER.”

However, his efforts went beyond that. The hospital had a system using ambulances in which cardiopulmonary resuscitation could not be performed.

“You can’t really take care of a trauma victim,” said Simon, who pointed out that “regular guys” driving the ambulances had just minimal first aid training. Simon mentioned one grim statistic: 100% percent of all cardiac-arrest victims arrived dead on arrival.

Simon said Mudge went to the hospital board and appealed for a “real system.” He got the board to work with the fire department, having them buy traditional and more efficient ambulances. He also obtained paramedics brought in from the Lower Peninsula who Simon and others trained — and kept trained.

“But how do you keep them really well trained?” Simon asked. “Well, Tom Mudge came up with the idea that the fire department pays half of their salary, because the county wouldn’t want to pay all the salary. It’s too much money for them.

“They would then be stationed at the hospital. So half of the time, more than half of the time, they would be at the hospital, and when they had a run, they would run from the hospital.”

MGH paid half their salaries, but there was another advantage to the system.

“He kept them trained because they would work in the emergency room, starting IVs during resuscitation,” Simon said. “So these paramedics were far better trained than most of the people in the Lower Peninsula.”

Ongoing training was the result.

“That’s the contribution Tom Mudge made to the Upper Peninsula,” Simon said.

Helping internationally

Simon said he and Mudge helped build the International Medical Corps, which according to its website at internationalmedicalcorps.org was established in 1984 by providing health care through training. It was born, it said, with the “pioneering approach” of training Afghan civilians as advanced medics, and then supporting and supplying them as they returned to Soviet-occupied Afghanistan to treat residents in their home communities.

“There was no medical care inside Afghanistan,” Simon said.

Anyone who was injured would have to go to a refugee camp to be treated, Simon said, so a training program was started to train medics.

The doctors noticed that supplies often were in short supply.

“Tom and I then realized that to support Afghanistan where there were no doctors, we had to train advanced medics,” Simon said.

Those medics were chosen on various criteria, including that they had to return to their villages, he said. Their families had to be in Afghanistan, not a refugee camp, and selected by a village leader. They also had to pass a dexterity test.

One of the innovations, designed by an orthopedic doctor, was a bamboo-shoot traction device, Simon said. However, medics still had to perform surgery.

“Tom designed a technique where he had corrugated rubber, and he taught them four different stitches,” Simon said. “The corrugated rubber resembled two edges of skin, two edges of fascia.”

Goats also were used in teaching operations, he said, with splinting, casting, putting in a chest tube and sewing up intestinal wounds among the skills taught.

“He said, ‘Bob, the way I want this done, is I want to have a surgeon, an assistant surgeon and anesthetist, and then we rotate them so we all learn what each other is doing,'” Simon said. “That way they can operate on an amputation. They can do a number of operations, and we’ll teach them the most common operations.”

This system still is used today in some war zones, Simon said.

Simon said that he and Mudge would teach medics one topic a week in a clinic.

“Here’s how you diagnose pneumonia,” he said. “Here’s how you diagnose bronchitis and emphysema.”

With the vast majority of lung and cardiac diseases brought on by only a handful of causes, those medics were trained in those causes, Simon said.

“We did a lot together both for Marquette and for the world,” Simon told Mudge during his Saturday visit.

Mudge said, “It’s history.”

Simon brought a few gifts to Mudge, such as an International Medical Corps T-shirt, cap and sweatshirt.

“I’m really proud of what you did, Tom,” he told his former colleague.

Undoubtedly, the community feels the same way.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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