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Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at Denver Health

TACS Fellowship

The Trauma and Acute Care Surgery (TACS) Fellowship at the University of Colorado/Denver Health Medical Center (UCH/DHMC) was approved as an official training site by the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma in May 2008.  Our training program is committed to a comprehensive and integrated experience in trauma, emergency general surgery (in the broadest sense) and surgical critical care. Through this educational experience at one of the country’s premier Level 1 trauma center and safety net institution, as well as a University hospital, children’s hospital, and an affiliated community hospital, our program provides fellows with the training to become academic leaders in this emerging discipline.

Denver Health Medical Center has embodied the concept of Acute Care Surgery in its surgical department for over 40 years.  The faculty maintains this broad-based practice as there are no additional surgical specialists for elective or urgent thoracic, vascular, hepatobiliary, or endocrine surgery.  Each of the faculty members are also surgical intensivists, managing all surgical patients in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit.  Denver Health is the Rocky Mountain Regional Level I Trauma Center, admitting nearly 3000 trauma patients a year with over 550 considered severely injured (ISS > 15).  The Denver Emergency Center for Children at Denver Health was just ACS-verified as a Level II Pediatric Trauma Center.  The University of Colorado Hospital is the region’s leader in tertiary surgical care and the Children’s Hospital of Colorado (CHCO) is the region’s only Level I trauma center.

The TACS curriculum builds upon the concepts and skills obtained during a five-year General Surgery Residency. The first year of the fellowship focuses on surgical critical care in an ACGME/RRC approved training program. Rotational experience includes trauma, cardiac, burn, pediatric, neuro and general surgical critical care. The fellows rotate at all three core hospitals: UCH, DHMC, and CHCO.  The broad experience gained through a diverse faculty and programmatic elements should prepare the fellow for their board examinations as well as a career in academic practice.

During the second year of the fellowship, the TACS Fellow acquires advanced operative skills and procedural techniques in 2-3 month dedicated rotations on thoracic, vascular, and hepatobiliary surgery.  Recent graduates have performed over 75 thoracic cases, 50-100 vascular cases, over 400 ICU procedures, and over 250 elective, urgent and trauma cases.  Additional rotations on orthopedics, neurosurgery, and interventional radiology expand the general knowledge base and specific technical skills of the fellow. Acute Care Surgery rotations incorporate elective general, thoracic and vascular surgery cases, surgical critical care, and emergent trauma and non-trauma cases.  Call at DHMC embodies this paradigm of training, as the Fellow evaluates and operates on patients with trauma as well as thoracic, vascular, abdominal, neurologic, and orthopaedic emergencies.

DHMC and UCH have a mature research program with over 25 years of NIH funding and over 1,000 trauma publications.  The TACS Fellow is expected to participate in ongoing research at one of the parent institutions. Additionally, the Fellow can be involved in trauma system design and disaster management.

TACS training at UCH/DHMC is the finest paradigm of incorporating Level 1 trauma center care, comprehensive surgical critical care training, and an expanded hands-on training in complex vascular, thoracic, and GI surgery in a setting where the faculty and institution are fully committed to an Acute Care Surgery model of practice.

Surgical Critical Care Fellowship

The Surgical Critical Care Fellowship at UCH/DHMC is an ACGME/RRC approved training program, whose goal is to educate fellows in the advanced care of critically ill and injured patients.  The educational program is designed to provide the critical care fellow with an education in the principles and practice of state-of-the art surgical critical care, by exposing them to a broad array of surgical illnesses; this is accomplished through teaching rounds, primary patient care, educational conferences, and specialized rotations.  By the completion of training, the fellow is expected to demonstrate proficiency in surgical critical care decision making, specific organ system support, evaluation of new technology and treatment techniques, ICU administration, outcomes assessment, research design, and interaction with patients, families, and health care personnel.  These clinical goals will be accomplished by providing the fellow with a position dedicated to the intensive care units at DHMC, UCH, and CHCO.

The fellowship is devoted to patient care, with didactic, clinical, and research components.  Fellowship training will consist of twelve months with rotational experience in trauma, cardiac, burn, pediatric, neuro and general surgical critical care. The didactic component includes multidisciplinary critical care rounds, daily teaching rounds, and critical care lecture series.  There is a weekly multidisciplinary research conference, quarterly critical care journal club, and quarterly multidisciplinary critical care conference.  Other didactic elements include Morbidity and Mortality Conference, Surgical Grand Rounds, and Ethics Conference.  The clinical component includes experience gained by direct patient responsibility under supervision of teaching faculty, and independent study on relevant topics.  Research may be conducted on a wide variety of critical care projects, and the opportunity to take master’s level classes at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in biostatistics and research methods exists. The broad experience gained through a diverse faculty and programmatic elements should prepare the fellow for their board examinations as well as a career in either academic or private practice.

Also see the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship page on the Denver Health website (opens in a new tab).



For more information or application materials for the TACS or SCC fellowship please contact:

Clay Cothren Burlew, MD FACS
Director, Surgical Intensive Care Unit
Program Director, Surgical Critical Care Fellowship
Program Director, Trauma & Acute Care Surgery Fellowship
Department of Surgery
Denver Health Medical Center
Associate Professor of Surgery
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
777 Bannock Street
Denver, CO  80204