Michael D. Peck, MD, ScD, FACS
When Dr. David Barillo, Chairman of the ABA Prevention Committee, contacted Mike to inform him of the bestowal of the Prevention Award, Mike’s comment was that he didn’t feel like he had done enough yet to merit the award. However, it is true that Mike is fortunate to be involved in a number of exciting projects still in the development phase.
Burn prevention is a science. Although this is unrecognized by many, and although burn prevention programs are often relegated to the lowest-funded sectors of budgets, the design, development, and implementation of these programs moves to the same rhythms as other injury prevention programs, such as motor vehicle safety and deterrence of interpersonal violence. Mike became interested in the epidemiology of burn injuries while a research fellow at the Cincinnati Shriners’ Hospital for Burned Children in 1987-1990. There he fell under the tutelage of Mr. Matt Maley, long an active worker in the burn prevention field. Through Matt, Mike was introduced not only to the previous work done in the field, but also to two major figures, Dr. Elizabeth McLoughlin and Mr. Andrew McGuire. Andy has been very influential over the years as he has demonstrated the power of advocacy. For any who doubt the value of cause-directed persistence and commitment, the passage into law of fire-safe cigarette legislation in eight states is a direct reflection of Andy’s dedication.
It was this interest in burn epidemiology that has led Mike to his present work with the International Classification of External Causes of Injury (ICECI). Similar to the ICD-9 codes that are used ubiquitously to describe illnesses and injuries, the ICECI was developed in the last decade to allow epidemiologists to gather accurate and comprehensive information about the cause of injuries (including mechanisms, objects and persons involved). The burn prevention community has long recognized the need for a more complete database from which to design meaningful prevention programs, and the ICECI promises to be the missing tool. At present there are nearly a dozen U.S. burn centers that are committed to serving as beta test sites for the assessment of the ICECI as an adjunct to the National Burn Repository, a project generously funded by the International Association of Firefighters Burn Foundation.
But no other event has had as much impact on Mike’s interest and involvement in burn prevention as the ABA annual meeting many years ago when he walked into a presentation on prevention of burns in the elderly by a nurse from North Carolina. Over the years while Mike was at the University of Miami, Mr. Ernest Grant became an increasingly important ally in the battle against preventable burns. Little did the two of them know in those early years that starting in 1996 they would have the opportunity to work together daily after Mike moved to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. There Mike took advantage not only of Ernie’s experience, knowledge, and contacts in the field, but also of the generous resources of the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center. As a result, Mike has had the honor to develop international programs of burn prevention for the NC Jaycee Burn Center over the last decade.
In recognition of these efforts, Mike was made the Chairman of the Prevention Committee of the International Society of Burn Injuries in 2004. Among the many activities advanced by ISBI Prevention Committee has been the funding of a new position in the Violence and Injury Prevention section of the World Health Organization. This new position, recently filled by Dr. Charles Mock, formerly director of the Seattle Injury Prevention Research Center, will allow the WHO to participate globally in the development and implementation of burn prevention programs in developing nations. In fact, within just two weeks there will be a conference in Geneva with participants from around the globe, in which projects and plans for burn prevention will be formulated.
Thus it is true that many of these projects are in their infancy and much work remains to be done. Although Mike is not ready to take credit for the completion of projects still in early stages, he wishes to accept the ABA Burn Prevention Award in recognition of the importance of these projects. Burn prevention is an epidemiological science—this is an important concept. Burn prevention is highly important in developing nations—this is another important concept. Both deserve commitment of time, resources and personnel over the next decades as our appreciation grows that the best way to treat a burn injury to keep it from occurring in the first place. As noted by one of the leaders of burn care in India, Dr. M. H. Keswani,
“The challenge of burns lies not in the successful treatment of a 100% burn, but in the 100% prevention of all burn injuries.”