Dr. Gerald Wydro

by Paula M. Riley

“I saw the diamond in the rough,” said Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Wydro, when he described why he came to Chestnut Hill Hospital as head of emergency medicine after a decade at Temple University Health System.

The brand-new 22-bed emergency department certainly caught Wydro’s attention, but his choice to leave Temple was based upon more than just the state-of-the-art facility at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

“Yes, I am very excited to work in this beautiful building, but what we also have is really great people and a tremendous leadership team that really gets it,” said Wydro. “They understand what we need (to be successful).”

With a new building and strong team, Wydro plans to leverage his extensive emergency medicine experience at Chestnut Hill.

Wydro was an emergency room physician at Temple and emergency medical services director. Later, in his role as program director, he led the creation of the Temple University Health System Transport Team (T3), which provides safe and immediate critical care via air and ground transport, 24 hours a day. Riding in a fully equipped EC-135 medical helicopter while treating a critically injured patient was “all in a day’s work” for Wydro. His most recent role at Temple was that of director of emergency preparedness.

Admitting that it was hard to leave Temple, Wydro is most excited about the chance to “to do it all over again” at Chestnut Hill and sees this role as an opportunity to build an ED that leverages the hospital’s assets which, he said, include the new building, committed staff, hospital leadership, high quality scores, and affiliations with Primary Stroke Center, Jefferson’s Neuroscience Network and Penn- Presbyterian Medical Center for cardiac care.

“My vision is to create the best part of an academic center in a community hospital,” Wydro said.

He said he plans to develop the academic affiliations and increase the number of medical students and residents working in the emergency department alongside the attending doctors. Wydro explained that medical students and residents add great value to a multi-disciplinary care team.

“They are at the forefront of medical training – residents are going to call you out if you suggest an old antibiotic or procedure – sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong, but they always keep the doctors on their toes,” he said.

Wydro considers Chestnut Hill Hospital the best of both worlds in this area. Patients get an attending doctor who provides quality medical care and they also benefit from medical students and residents who work “hand-in-hand” with the care team.

“They (residents and students) provide an additional opportunity for another school of thought,” he said.

Along with increasing academics, Wydro is introducing cutting-edge materials, processes and training to allow physicians to deliver quicker and better diagnoses. He refers to materials for managing airways and providing vascular access. Currently, Wydro is working with ED doctors on providing bedside ultrasounds so they can use the images, along with patient history and clinical assessment, to make diagnoses quicker and better.

“My job is to get the right tools, right environment, right support and right educational opportunities for our docs,” Wydro said.

The new director is keenly aware of the patient experience and speaks of the hospital’s “30-Minutes or Less ED Pledge.”

“It’s all about communication,” Wydro said. “We define expectations so that from the time you walk into the ED, you will be seen within 30-minutes; a challenge that is not always possible but one we work towards. Remember that you will be seen in seconds if you are experiencing a heart attack or stroke.”

The ED has a separate ambulance entrance as well as rooms designated as “resuscitation rooms” for critical patients and those in cardiac arrest. There are general rooms for upper respiratory, pneumonia and similar illnesses. The Fast Track is another section of the department designed for minor lacerations, sprains and fractures and has a dedicated staff by mid-level providers.

With the new facility and early outbreak of the flu, the ED has been extremely busy. Wydro said the severity of the flu is yet to be determined, but it can be a complicated disease that can mask as pneumonia and must be treated carefully.

“Our new ER is thriving under Dr. Wydro’s leadership,” said Dr. John Cacciamani, CEO of Chestnut Hill Hospital. “Even with the recent influx of patients due to the flu, our ER team provides compassionate and skilled care – quickly. Additional ER beds have been opened to meet the demands and we’ll continue to do our best for each patient, every day.”

To some, dealing with flu patients may seems less exciting than airlifting gunshot victims to Temple’s ED but Wydro has a different perspective. He explained that Chestnut Hill Hospital sees more trauma than people may realize, and that the real excitement is in the managing of medical cases.

“We treat some incredibly sick patients here – they need disciplined, systematic emergency care,” he said. “I apply the care used in trauma patients to treat other patients. It is a privilege to help them (patients) in their time of need. And, I have yet to work a shift here and say, ‘that was easy.’”