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Paul Hanashiro, '57
Recollections of Early Trauma Care at Maryland

Dr. Paul K. Hanashiro sees his professional life as something of a “miracle.” The odds of him ever going to medical school were slim since he was one of eight children and the son of a plantation worker in Hawaii. “My whole life was like that,” says Dr. Hanashiro, a 1957 graduate of the medical school. “When the chips were down something always happened.”

Dr. Hanashiro, who still practices medicine at age 71 and recently retired as the medical director of emergency services at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago, says his biggest career accomplishment was helping create Maryland’s shock trauma center. He was the center’s first clinical director, and today the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center is world renowned for saving people with life-threatening injuries.

The early days of Maryland’s shock trauma center were not easy. Dr. Hanashiro became its clinical director in 1968 while the center was under construction and expanding from a small operation to a 12-bed facility with operating rooms and clinical laboratories. Since he couldn’t hire physicians until the center was complete, Dr. Hanashiro not only took care of the patients in the old trauma unit, but planned for the opening of the new facility which included drafting operational guidelines and training for the staff. He ran the shock trauma unit from Summer 1968 until 1971, witnessing the “steepest decline in mortality rate,” Dr. Hanashiro says.

As a youngster in Hawaii, Dr. Hanashiro had little contact with doctors, but he always wanted to serve people. “I didn’t know what it took to be a physician,” he says. “It seemed like a service-
oriented profession.” His father, Seisuke, and mother, Ushi, a seamstress, thought being a doctor would be “a noble profession,” Dr. Hanashiro says. “Financially, there was no way I could get in. But I felt if I worked hard enough I could make it.”

Dr. Hanashiro entered medical school at Maryland after earning an undergraduate degree at Indiana University. He did his internship at Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago and was general medical officer in the U.S. Air Force in Tokyo from 1958–1960. After military service, he returned to Presbyterian for a residency in internal medicine and training in cardiology.

He moved to California and from 1965–1968, Dr. Hanashiro held a full-time academic and clinical position at the Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center and USC School of Medicine Shock Research Unit. That is where he met Dr. Cowley, a short, stocky man who was on the West Coast for a speaking engagement.

Dr. Cowley was a pioneering giant in trauma care who headed the shock trauma center as well as the cardiovascular surgical division at Maryland. “He had this vision,” Dr. Hanashiro says. “He was way ahead of his time. He was truly dedicated.” Dr. Cowley asked Dr. Hanashiro to work for him in Maryland. “He saw what I was doing at USC on shock research, and he invited me back,” he says.

Dr. Hanashiro left Maryland in 1971 and returned to USC where he ran a research program in atherosclerosis and became associate professor of medicine. In 1981, he became medical director of emergency services at Rush-Presbyterian.

Now fully retired from Rush, Dr. Hanashiro is currently in Okinawa, Japan for three months training house staff and teaching emergency
cardiac care at Chubu Hospital.

Dr. Hanashiro’s career spans more than 40 years, and, he says, working on the ground floor of shock trauma was the highlight. “That was the most fruitful in the sense that it provided the groundwork for the current institute of emergency medicine at Maryland.” 

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