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Dr. Roger Yurt: Balm Squad


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Major-burn care is uniquely complicated, at once emergency and long-term. You must deal with a body that has lost its primary immune defense (the skin), manage excruciating pain, treat shock and tremendous fluid loss, and then attend to a lengthy recovery process. But listening to Dr. Roger Yurt, director of New York Presbyterian's Burn Center on East 68th Street, discuss such trauma is like hearing an announcer call a shot on the putting green at Pebble Beach. And it works. "You need a leader like that here," says Ann Brennan, an assistant nurse manager at the Burn Center, which admits more than 1,000 patients annually and is the busiest in the nation. "You need someone who's not going to be as stressed out as the unit itself is. He's a tremendous balancing force." That balancing force benefits the patients as well. "You're caring for someone when they're at one of the worst points in their life," says Dr. Yurt. "It's important that the bond that's created is a stable and reassuring one." But don't misread this quiet demeanor -- Dr. Yurt's soft-spokenness is more Gary Cooper than shrinking violet. After residencies in Dallas and New York, he focused on burn care at the U.S. Army's Institute of Surgical Research in Texas. It was there that Dr. Yurt helped pioneer research that virtually eliminated the once-common occurrence of kidney failure in burn patients. He is now involved in such Star Trek-worthy projects as the cultivation of synthetic skin and technologies like laser dopplers that will be able to treat severe burns more quickly and effectively. He helps train almost all surgical residents in New York (regardless of the medical school they attend) who, because of the center's sterling reputation, come there to master burn care. For Dr. Yurt, the benefits of such study are legion. "If you can learn to take care of a patient who has been badly burned," he notes, "you'll be able to treat any kind of severe acute illness."


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