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ROCHESTER, Minn. –– The American Legion presented Donald Jenkins, M.D., a Mayo Clinic trauma surgeon and retired Air Force colonel, with its highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, for his achievements in trauma and critical medical care for military personnel injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The American Legion, chartered by Congress in 1919, focuses on serving veterans, current service members and communities. Since 1921, the American Legion Distinguished Service Medal has been presented to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service to the nation and have made great contributions to veterans.
Among Dr. Jenkins significant contributions to medical care for service members is his instrumental role in founding the military’s first trauma system, the Joint Theater Trauma System. The goal of the system is to provide the optimal chance for survival and maximal potential for functional recovery among injured military personnel. A trauma system organizes and coordinates efforts to deliver a full range of trauma care for a population.
The work of Dr. Jenkins and other military medical pioneers has significantly reduced the nation's combat fatality rate. Dr. Jenkins and his colleagues, while deployed in Oman in 2002, began using a transfusion formula that reduced the mortality rate 50 percent, and re-introduced the use of tourniquets on the battlefield, which for many years was discouraged.
Because of his success not only in the military but in his civilian medical career, he was elected president of the National Trauma Institute, where he is one of the nation’s top experts in traumatic injury, the leading cause of death for Americans 44 and younger.
Past recipients of the American Legion Distinguished Service Medal include former U.S. presidents, generals, and notable physician, such as Dr. Charles W. Mayo, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1964 for his devotion to the progress of medical science and advancements to surgical techniques. (An article on Dr. Charles Mayo on the American Legion website).
Dr. Jenkins requested that he be allowed to accept the award on behalf of all military medical personnel who provide life-and limb-saving care.
“Care along the continuum is like none other rendered. Teams of experts from all disciplines are necessary for us to have achieved the lowest died of wounds rate in combat ever recorded,” Dr. Jenkins says.
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