Santa Rosa Orthopaedics’ (SRO, surgeons Frederick Bennett, MD, and Nathan Ehmer, DO, serve as the on-call traumatologists for two out of every three shifts at the only level II trauma center between San Francisco and Oregon, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital (SRMH). Drs. Bennett and Ehmer explain the invaluable medical service that trauma centers bring to their surrounding communities, and provide physician perspectives on what it means to be a trauma surgeon today.


Approximately 150,000 Americans die each year due to accidental injury. Another 400,000 are disabled. The courageous people who take on the responsibility of treating these patients must be able to perform technically complex operations on critically injured patients at a moment’s notice. Research on trauma centers in the U.S. shows that severely injured patients who receive care at a level I or II trauma center have a 20-25% increased chance of survival over patients that do not make it to the hospital. Orthopedic traumatologists have the necessary training to bring these favorable outcomes to patients in need of trauma care, but a shortage in doctors willing to serve as on-call trauma surgeons threatens the quality of care available in the future.

Recent studies show that about 75% of U.S. emergency department directors report a lack of adequate on-call trauma surgery coverage. Factors thought to contribute to the shortage of orthopedic trauma specialists include high liability, financial pressures that force downgrades to trauma centers, as well as inflexible, and inconvenient work hours. Santa Rosa traumatologists Frederick Bennett and Nathan Ehmer are both fellowship trained in orthopedic trauma, and they offer insights on what it takes to work in trauma surgery today.

“Ingenuity, drive, and compassion are essential prerequisites for a career in orthopedic trauma surgery. The grueling physical demands and unpredictability of the work environment deter many orthopedic residents from considering a fellowship in trauma,” explains Dr. Ehmer. “I personally find that the unique combinations of multiple injuries, which range from severe to life and/or limb threatening, make working in trauma very rewarding. Traumatologists have the power to give patients’ their lives back, and I am privileged to participate as a part of the coordinated trauma care in Sonoma County.”

“For me, the excitement that comes with every shift is a major benefit of working in trauma. The job is challenging, but I welcome the creativity and collaboration required to care for and heal injured trauma patients. The trauma general surgeons that work in the emergency rooms do a remarkable job of coordinating care, and delivering quality surgical skills to critically injured patients. As part of the trauma team, fellowship trained orthopedic trauma surgeons are the most qualified physicians to provide acute musculoskeletal trauma care and urgent general orthopedic care in the emergency room.”

For Dr. Bennett, the allure of trauma surgery is the people. “We see people from all walks of life in the trauma room. I like getting to learn patients’ stories, and it’s very rewarding to help them when they need it most,” he explains. “I’m proud to work at the SRMH trauma center, where the surgical team and professional medical consultants bring a vital service to an area whose residents would otherwise have to travel an hour for lifesaving treatment.”

“It is not uncommon for a single patient, depending on the nature and severity of his or her injury, to receive coordinated care from dozens of different doctors from a variety of specialty backgrounds,” Dr. Bennett continues. “The complexity of treatment available at the SRMH trauma center ranks in the top 10 percent of California hospitals, alongside medical centers from much larger and more densely populated regions.”

Only at an organized medical center designated for the admittance and treatment of trauma victims can such a high volume of medical professionals work together efficiently on complicated cases. Acute and chronic conditions frequently managed by the trauma specialists at Santa Rosa Orthopaedics include severe fractures of the upper and lower extremities, open and complex periarticular injuries, pelvic and acetabular fractures, complex femoral fractures, nonunions and malunions, infections and osteomyelitis.

Having worked closely together for several years now, Dr. Bennett and Dr. Ehmer have developed a strong collaborative approach to their work, strengthening their collective practice, and directly benefiting their patients. A patient that arrives under Dr. Bennett’s or Dr. Ehmer’s care at the trauma center has direct contact with a team of orthopedic surgical experts and physical therapists at Santa Rosa Orthopaedic Group.

Dr. Bennett explains, “As members of SRO, we regularly work alongside 7 other experienced orthopedic surgeons, each of whom has his own unique professional background and area of expertise. Dr. Ehmer and I are proud to offer our trauma patients a continuum of care that outlasts our initial meeting in the trauma operating room. Accidental injury can turn a person’s life upside-down. It’s nice to work alongside so many talented medical professionals, and to be a part of an organization that helps people reclaim their livelihoods after trauma occurs.”

In its efforts to bring the best outcomes to patients, SRO has set the model for exceptional orthopedic care for over 60 years. SRO offers patients in-house diagnostic imaging, rehabilitation, sports injury prevention, as well as advanced surgical treatments in joint replacement, sports medicine, hand, foot, ankle, and general orthopedic surgery.

For more information and patients testimonials on Dr. Bennett and Dr. Ehmer, visit SRO’s website.