space has room for 1,275.
“They are a really unique group,” Purcell says. “The trauma
surgeons do some really amazing things for everyday people.
They are the ;irst people you meet in a trauma situation. When
you are in emergency vehicles, they are the ones trying to save
The two-and-a-half-day event that resulted, running from
Monday to Wednesday from 6: 30 a.m. to 6: 30 p.m., typically in-
cludes a general session, one or two keynotes and sessions on
the latest procedures on wound care and trauma. “It is mostly
updating doctors on the most up-to-date procedures on wound
care and trauma,” Mattox says.
The ;irst session at the conference is always called “Hot Topics” and includes ;ive to seven 15-minute talks “that are really
the talk of the town in the critical care community,” Allen says.
The organizers haven’t shied away from subjects—such as
the aging surgeon and the surgeon who misuses drugs—that
would be sensitive for many to bring up among their colleagues
“We had a phrase that said go to the heart of danger and then
you’ll ;ind safety,” Mattox says.
Debates are also a tradition. This year, the subject will be
resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (
RE-BOA), used to control hemorrhage. “We’ll have two different
sides give a formal debate, and then have the audience vote on
which side convinced you,” Mattox says.
One of the best-attended sessions is one on case manage-
ment, where attendees submit medical cases to a moderator.
“The faculty is on a panel,” Allen says. “They have no idea how
the moderator will present the case and what questions will be
Beyond the meeting rooms, the conference includes a small
trade show. “The maximum number of spaces is 36,” Allen says.
“We will max that out. It’s a very busy, much-coveted space. Our
folks pack their hall and enjoy their exhibits.”
There is also a faculty dinner, which this year will take place
at Restaurant Guy Savoy, known for its French tasting menu,
at Caesars Palace. “This is going to be by far the highest-end
restaurant we’ve done,” Allen says.
The Trauma, Critical Care and Acute Care Surgery conference
has come a long way since starting out as a trauma and emer-
gency medicine course held at Caesars Palace by John Batdorf,
MD, a surgeon in Las Vegas, to bring critical care physicians
together. “The doctors out there were sort of isolated,” Mattox
Previously, Cuba had been a popular destination, but when
Cuba fell to Fidel Castro in 1959, meeting organizers needed to
;ind new places to bring attendees together.
“The place that replaced it as the entertainment center in the
Western hemisphere was Las Vegas,” Mattox recalls. “That was
the vision of many people who began to build the casinos, not
the least of whom was the visionary by the name of Jay Sarno.”
(Sarno was the developer of Caesars Palace.)
A succession of surgeons ran the critical care event as a
course at Caesars Palace before Mattox assumed leadership of
the event in 1989 and focused on growing it into a full-;ledged
“We ;leshed out and changed the course,” Mattox says. “We
approached it like a business, like a brand, just as you would a
political campaign. We asked ourselves, ‘What is our product?’
‘Where are we going?’ ‘What are our selling points?’ ‘How do we
sell that product?’ ‘How do we do it in a joyful, fun way?’ ‘How do
we maintain it year after year and keep it fresh?’”
One way to keep the attendees coming back, Mattox realized,
was to set the bar high for speakers.
“If you present an old talk you will never come back,” he says.
“This has to be a fresh, new talk. You have to stay on time. You
can’t put too much on a slide. You have to tell them what the
“They appealed to the needs of people who were
going to the convention and going to the casino—
people who wanted to be entertained.”