Drs. Donald Jenkins and Daniel Grabo: a closer look at impressive credentials and medical talking points in layman's terms

By Sandra Snyder / For The Scranton Journal, Fall 2016

Dr. Donald Jenkins, University of Scranton Class of 1984, and Dr. Daniel Grabo, Class of 1998, are bonded by medical passions as well as background. The former grew up in the Kingston/Forty Fort area of Northeastern Pennsylvania and the latter a few miles north, in Pittston.

Their small hometowns and matching small-town values, Grabo said, have no doubt contributed to their desire to protect their families and serve their countries through military service.

The fact that each of their service records is so distinguished is a credit to their University of Scranton educations and, simply put, the opportunities with which each has been blessed, Grabo said, taking care to note that those fighting the nation’s battles are every bit as important as those fighting to save their lives.

Those lives are family-centric.

“We were both brought up very similarly,” Grabo said of himself and Jenkins. “We’re extremely patriotic; it’s almost in our blood, and we love our families and our faiths.”

For Jenkins, family, is centered on his wife, Elaine, three children, Erica, Taylor and Kyle, and three grandchildren, Rebecca, Allison and Mark.

For Grabo, count wife Janet Ramos, fellow 1998 alum and a South Jersey native, and sons Daniel, 9, and Anthony, 4, as the key players.

Each has had some key educational and career accomplishments, which neither will boast about. Humility is a trait that characterizes both and is illustrated, in just one example, through Grabo’s recollection of how and why he became one of five people to receive a Romanian Medal of Honor after saving the lives of members of a Romanian security detail struck by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2014.

As chief of trauma, Grabo was charged with triaging the care for the wounded. One of the most significant tasks the team had to perform was an aggressive, invasive procedure known as a resuscitative thoracotomy, which involves cracking the chest and cross-clamping the aorta. Amid a chaotic scene with several others severely injured, Grabo’s team succeeded in getting this most critically wounded patient to recovery and on to intensive care in a successful and timely manner.

Before the medals were awarded, Grabo said, he was given no choice but to accept his, as the unit leader. He also was charged with selecting the four other medal recipients, something he called an impossible task.

Therefore, it’s “an award I have proudly displayed in my home, but I don’t want it,” he said, explaining every member of his team truly deserved the same honor.

“As a commander, you want to make sure the people you bring to the fight are honored,” he said.

On that chaotic day, Grabo said, those people implemented every one of the treatments Jenkins worked so hard to bring to the medical forefront once more.

Jenkins’ impressive curriculum vitae includes a bachelor of science in biochemistry from the University of Scranton, an M.D. from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, internships and a chief residency in the Wilford Hall Medical Center of the United States Air Force, and a fellowship in Trauma and Surgical Critical Care and Focused Abdominal Sonography in Trauma at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Grabo also did trauma training at the University of Pennsylvania and noted that he crossed paths with his former Northeastern Pennsylvania neighbor again a few years ago at EAST, or the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, for which Grabo is now chair of the military section.

Grabo also graduated from Georgetown Medical School in 2003, after spending a year in the civilian world working with his accountant father. He completed a residency in general surgery at Thomas Jefferson University before moving to Norfolk, Va., where he was a naval surgeon.

In 2010, he returned to Philadelphia for a fellowship before moving to Los Angeles in 2012 to join the Navy Trauma Training Center, where, he explained, those going overseas to treat the combat-wounded are trained.

In 2014, he deployed to Afghanistan and spent 10 months as chief of trauma at NATO Role 3 Hospital in Kandahar. After that he returned to Los Angeles, where, he says, “How I take care of trauma patients is largely based on what Dr. Jenkins did over there.”

What Jenkins, who, after a distinguished career with the Mayo Clinic, recently returned to Texas for a leadership position in trauma affiliated with the University of Texas, did, exactly, was bring to the forefront anew at least three older forms of trauma treatment that have set the medical establishment to talking excitedly about a retro future.

They are:

Warm fresh whole-blood transfusions: Transfusions in general are used to treat blood loss or provide blood components the body is unable to make. In modern medicine, whole blood is rarely given to treat blood loss; rather, patients are given the blood components they need most – plasma, red blood cells or platelets. Between March 2003 and July 2007, warm fresh whole blood was used in Iraq and Afghanistan to treat traumatic hemorrhage and independently associated with improved 48-hour and 30-day survival rates, Jenkins and Grabo said.

Tourniquets: These constricting devices used to control circulation to extremities had fallen out of favor as a medical treatment before Jenkins and his military team, as well as the Blackhawk Down incident, resurrected interest in their use. Jenkins, passionate about the increased survival rates he has seen when tourniquets were used in the military, noted the White House’s current Stop The Bleed campaign, launched in October 2015 as an initiative to provide bystanders with the tools and knowledge needed to stop life-threatening bleeding. The basic concept is to arm the public with the knowledge gained by first responders and military medics in cases of man-made and natural disasters and common emergencies. The ultimate goal, Jenkins said, is to have tourniquets become ubiquitous in sports stadiums, schools, shopping malls and many other public spaces.

Damage-control surgery: Sometimes thought counterintuitive because this type of surgery is not one definitive procedure, damage-control surgery, which skips unnecessary pre-treatments and investigations in the interest of time, has resulted in increased survival rates, Grabo said, in patients with exsanguinating injuries. Exsanguination is blood loss at a rate that can cause death. Colloquially, this is known as “bleeding out.” In the original Latin, ex means “out of” and sanguis means “blood.”

Central tenets of damage-control surgery are hemorrhage control, contamination prevention and protection from further injury.