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Red Hot Gala Q&A: Nicole M. Fox, MD, MPH, FACS

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Nicole M. Fox, MD, MPH, FACS is an Attending Surgeon at the Cooper Trauma Center, the Medical Director of Trauma Floor, North 7, the Director of the Pediatric Trauma Program, the Medical Director of the Cooper Clinical Documentation Program and an Assistant Professor of Surgery.

Q: Why did you become a Trauma Surgeon?

A: I decided to become a trauma surgeon after rotating through the Surgical Intensive Care Unit and trauma service in medical school. I loved the fast pace, the need for immediate decision making and the chance to help patients when they are critically ill and injured. As a resident at Christiana, I admired the trauma surgeons who remained calm and in control even when everyone else panicked.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of working as a Cooper Trauma Center surgeon?

A: The most rewarding part of my job is helping patients and their families at a time when they are incredibly vulnerable.  No one expects to be a trauma patient and it is a life changing experience for patients and their families. To see a patient who arrived to the trauma bay dying, leave the hospital and start their life again is incredible. It is also important to support families when a patient does not have a good outcome. They look to you for support.

Q: What makes Cooper Trauma Center stand out from the other trauma centers in the region? 

A: Cooper is by far one of the busiest and highest acuity trauma centers in the region. We are able to care for any patient – infants, children, adults, the elderly – regardless of age or type of injury. The trauma staff is incredible and the nurses who staff the Trauma Surgical Care Unit also work in the trauma bay, which provides continuity of care for our patients.

Q: What do you do to make yourself a better surgeon each day?

A: It is important as a surgeon to maintain a work-life balance and be well rounded. The art of medicine is the most difficult part to teach: how to interact with families, speak to patients and be decisive in times of crisis. This job is incredibly stressful and in order to perform well, you need to take care of yourself.  So to be a better surgeon, I make sure that I carve out time to read and keep up on current literature, get rest when I can and spend time enjoying my family so that when I am at work I give 110% to my job.

Q: What can surgeons like you do to ensure the continued success of the Trauma Center?

A: The trauma surgeons at Cooper work together as a team, look out for each other and encourage each other. Many of us are involved in national trauma organizations and research so that other trauma centers are aware of what Cooper is doing and what we are contributing to the field. The way to be successful is to recognize that trauma is a team sport and we are all working towards the same goal – taking care of critically ill and injured patients.  In order to do that well we have to make sure the team is happy, healthy and excited to come to work every day.

Q: How important is the 2015 Red Hot Gala to the Cooper Trauma Center? Will raising money from this event help in making some of those wanted advancements a reality?

A: The 2015 Gala is a great way to recognize the importance of the trauma center to this hospital. We have many needs within our department and the money raised will help us reach some of our goals.

Q: What is the most fulfilling part of teaching and serving as an assistant professor of surgery?

A: It is rewarding to see the residents and medical students become interested in a career in trauma after rotating on our service. I also enjoy mentoring them on research projects and watching them take an idea, turn it into a project and end up with a national presentation and paper at the end which makes a lasting impact on their career.

Q: Do you think that, through teaching, you have become a more skilled surgeon?

A: Absolutely. If you can teach someone to operate or manage a patient in the ICU it reinforces the fact that you know your craft. It forces you to evaluate your own skill set when you have to start at a very basic level and teach someone from the beginning.