Dr. Adam Fox '92, trauma surgeon at University Hospital in Newark, N.J., and assistant professor of surgery at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, is featured in the ABC reality show "NY Med."
Photo by University Hospital, Newark, N.J.
Alumnus saves lives on ABC medical reality show
July 16, 2014Tweet
A teenage boy has been shot multiple times. He’s rushed to an inner-city hospital, where his family waits in anguish. Did the bullets hit his heart? Will he make it? The tension is nail-biting. But thanks to the work of Dr. Adam Fox ’92 and his team, the boy leaves the hospital alive and well.
It’s a happy ending fit for TV, and that’s just what it is – a scene from a primetime TV show. But Fox isn’t an actor, he’s a real-life trauma surgeon and one of several medical professionals from University Hospital in Newark, N.J., featured on “NY Med,” an eight-episode docu-drama airing on ABC. “NY Med,” which debuted in July 2012, follows medical patients and staff at two hospitals in the New York metro area: the posh New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and the gritty University Hospital, newly added for this season.
“We’re an inner-city hospital,” said Fox, assistant professor of surgery at University Hospital. “We don’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the more upscale hospitals. But we take care of everybody who walks in that door.”
That “everybody” turns out to be a lot of people. The New Jersey Trauma Center at University Hospital is the sole Level I Trauma Center for the region of northern New Jersey. The hospital handles more than 3,000 trauma cases a year, about 28 percent of which are penetrating trauma (e.g., gunshot wounds, stab wounds). While others might pass out over the stress involved in handling these types of cases at such a high frequency, Fox finds it a rush. His job lets him be involved with the kind of trauma he’s most interested in — a good mix of both blunt trauma and penetrating trauma.
“I find that, although it is emotionally exhausting sometimes and personally difficult to deal with and to understand why somebody would want to hurt someone, from an academic perspective I love it,” Fox said.
Fox referred to himself as “the conductor of the trauma bay” on the June 26 premiere. It’s his authority and quick thinking that led producers to ask him to be on the show.
“When we first saw Dr. Fox in action in the trauma bay, we found his take-charge attitude extremely compelling,” said Erica Baumgart, supervising producer for “NY Med.” “He instills confidence in his team and passionately commits himself to saving every patient that comes in the door.”
Fox had the opportunity to opt out, and, considering his taste in TV, it’s likely he could have. He can’t stand medical television (barring “Scrubs,” which he said is “spot-on” about the social interplay between physicians, nursing staff and hospital patients) and thinks that dramas like “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy” have erroneously blurred the lines between what a trauma surgeon is versus what an emergency medicine physician is. Happy to hear that “NY Med” would focus on trauma, he agreed to appear on the show.
“I thought that the show would give us a huge opportunity as a group to really highlight what it is trauma surgeons do versus emergency physicians,” Fox said.
He also thought it’d be a good opportunity to show off the fine work on display at University Hospital, a hospital that may not be glamorous but certainly gets the job done.
“There is this island in the middle of the Wild West that should shine a bit,” said Fox of his busy workplace. “I thought that getting us on TV and showing the good work that we do would…somehow show the country that there’s a lot of good work that gets done and that it’s not necessarily on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.”
Filming at University Hospital took place from March to June 2013. Lucky for Fox and his team, the “NY Med” crew was respectful and never got in the way. There were only a few instances where Fox requested to have a conversation with a family member with the cameras off. His real worry stemmed from the fact that the hospital didn’t have any say in the editing process.
“Because they’re not medical people, I was a little concerned that they’d put little bits and pieces together to make a story work but not necessarily do it in a way that was medically correct,” he said. “My biggest concern was that my mentors would be watching this on TV and say ‘Oh look, there’s Adam. Why would he do this this way? We didn’t teach him that.’”
ABC invited Fox to a press preview of the show before its premiere, where he got to see himself on TV for the first time.
“The first time I saw myself on a huge screen, I was like ‘Whoa. I’m not sure if I really want to see myself again,’” Fox said.
Despite his initial bashfulness, Fox is pleased with the show. He will appear in a second episode on July 31. If ABC asks him to come on the show for a third season, he said he’d definitely do it, and not just for more screen time. He hopes to parlay his newfound celebrity into a nationwide push to promote trauma prevention.
“The more exposure our trauma team has, the more respect that we have, the more we can maybe get people on board with trauma prevention,” he said. “I think that this type of publicity is potentially good for the job that I do.”
He hopes that Binghamton University, which gave him “amazing opportunities,” benefits from the exposure as well and that his appearance on the show can show current and prospective students what one can achieve as a Binghamton graduate.
“I’m incredibly proud of Binghamton,” Fox said. “I thought this would just be a nice way of having people know that if you’re in Binghamton you can do anything that you want and even end up on TV.”