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Behind the Name: Dr. F. William Blaisdell

The Father of Modern Trauma Care

Black and white portrait of Dr. Blaisdell in a lab coat

A renowned trauma surgeon, Dr. F. William Blaisdell contributed extensively to medical research and teaching. His research and personal papers, available by request from the library’s Archives and Special Collections, tell the story of his career in which he developed innovations in trauma care that revolutionized the field nationally.

Widely considered the “father of modern trauma care,” Dr. Blaisdell created the nation’s first dedicated 24/7 trauma program at San Francisco General Hospital, where he served as chief of surgery in the 1960s, before doing the same at the UC Davis Medical Center. He chaired the UC Davis Department of Surgery from 1978 to 1995. The trauma program at UC Davis remains the only one in the region with Level I certification, the highest possible.

UC Davis dedicated the F. William Blaisdell, M.D. Medical Library in December 2006, in the new Education Building on the Sacramento campus, in recognition of his leadership in the field and his deep commitment to medical education, his patients, and his students and trainees.

In 2002, the American College of Surgeons awarded Blaisdell its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, for his original contributions to the care of patients with trauma, peripheral vascular disease, shock and thromboembolism and for his service to the surgical profession. His peers recognized him as an “eminent scholar, leader, surgeon and mentor.”

In addition to bearing his name, Blaisdell Medical Library houses a collection on Civil War medicine donated by Dr. Blaisdell. The items include a set of surgical instruments as well as books from that era, which can be viewed by appointment.

Dr. Blaisdell died of natural causes on April 18, 2020. To learn more, read our remembrance or this one from UC Davis Health.

This painting o Dr. F. William Blaisdell hangs in the entrance of the library in honor of the building’s namesake.