News

2.16.2012

Miller School of Medicine Mourns Jeffrey Augenstein, M.D., Ph.D.

Jeffrey S. Augenstein, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery, director of the William Lehman Injury Research Center and a pioneer in injury prevention who helped save millions of lives on the road, on the battlefield, in the emergency room and in disaster zones during his unparalleled 37-year career, died in Los Angeles on February 11 while on a business trip. He was 64.

A graduate of the Miller School who earned his doctorate in psychology at the University of Miami the same year, Augenstein had a profound impact on the UM/Jackson Memorial Medical Center campus, where he spent his entire career. He was instrumental in the creation of the Ryder Trauma Center, which he directed for five years. He also led the development of an international research model for preventing and treating automobile-related deaths and injuries, innovations for training battlefield physicians to treat war casualties, information systems that enable physicians to care for patients more efficiently and safely, and an international telemedicine program that allows doctors in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti to consult with specialists at UM/Jackson 24 hours a day.

“Jeff was a giant of trauma and severe injury sciences, and has done so much for his fellow humans who were hurt in road and other drastic accidents,” said Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D. “He was a wonderful man who leaves an enduring legacy. He will be dearly missed.”

“Dr. Augenstein’s experience in injury prevention was vast and unmatched and his passion for telemedicine was unsurpassed,” said Alan S. Livingstone, M.D., the Lucille and DeWitt Daughtry Professor and Chairman of the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery. “Jeff was considered a giant in the field of computerized trauma learning, injury prevention and patient care. With his extensive involvement in education, research, and clinical care, he was a true triple threat – something very hard for modern surgeons to accomplish. He was also a humanitarian, as exemplified by his early and continued involvement in the aftermath of the disastrous Haitian earthquake.”

For the past two decades, Augenstein directed the internationally recognized William Lehman Injury Research Center, which was established to improve the treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation of traumatic injuries resulting from blunt trauma. He devised a computerized information system that addressed the clinical, research, administrative and educational components of trauma, which serves as the backbone of a multidisciplinary research effort addressing the epidemiology and biomechanics of automobile-related injury.

“Jeff guided his team to become one of the nation’s leaders in the collection and utilization of medical and engineering data in the discovery of injury patterns,” Livingstone said. “He worked closely with car companies and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to incorporate ‘real-world’ crashes into the study of automobile trauma, and then to modify automobiles to improve survivability in an accident. It has never been safer to drive a car, and his productive research now saves thousands of lives each year.”

From early in his career, Augenstein was fascinated with building user-friendly information systems that enabled physicians to take care of patients more efficiently and safely, and he directed the Medical Computer Systems Laboratory for more than 35 years. As Livingstone noted, there is not a part of the University of Miami Medical Group, or any of UM’s hospitals that has not benefited from the technology he introduced through MCSL. “In the 1970s, when there weren’t even personal computers, he was interested in computers and their application to medicine,” Livingstone said.

Because of his unique skills and interests, Augenstein even served as associate dean for medical information systems at UM for a time, gladly adding that responsibility to his clinical responsibilities in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit and the Trauma Service.

Augenstein also was instrumental in the development – and success – of the Army Trauma Training Center, the UM/Jackson-based training program for forward surgical teams headed to Iraq and Afghanistan. His enthusiasm and expertise led him to obtain multi-year funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to explore innovative approaches to combat education and caring for patients on the battlefield.

He earned numerous awards and served with many prominent medical societies nationally and internationally. He was a permanent civilian member of the Product Line Review Evaluation Team for the Defense Department’s Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) and sat on the Executive Board of the Combat Casualty Care for the U.S. Army Research & Material Command.

A sought-after expert by Congress and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Augenstein testified about automobile crashes and how to make driving safer. He was a prolific author with publications encompassing the realms of trauma care, injury prevention, general surgery and education.

“The Department of Surgery, University of Miami, Jackson Memorial Hospital, and the community at large have suffered a great loss,” Livingstone said. “Jeff will be missed by all, but he will never be forgotten. The lives saved in car accidents alone will serve as a lasting legacy.”

He is survived by his wife Deborah, his mother, his sister, and stepfather. Funeral arrangements are pending.

The Miller School will hold a memorial for Dr. Augenstein on Tuesday, February 28, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Lois Pope LIFE Center, seventh-floor auditorium.

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