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UT’s LIFESTAR marks 25 years

- Photo Submitted
On Oct. 1, 1984, with one helicopter, UT LIFESTAR responded to its first call to transport a Loudon County patient suffering from a heart attack.

Twenty-five years later, the areomedical ambulance program is celebrating its silver anniversary.

Today, the aeromedical service has a fleet of five helicopters and operates five bases, located at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, Andersonville, Morristown, Sevierville and Sweetwater.

UT LIFESTAR provides service to 21 counties in East Tennessee, as well as portions of Southeastern Kentucky and Western North Carolina.

“We were one of the early programs, and today U-T LIFESTAR is recognized as one of the country’s premier programs,” said Norman Majors, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at UT Medical Center.

“That first month of operation, we transported 26 patients, now we provide service to more than 200 critically ill or injured patients a month.”

UT LIFESTAR founder Robert Lash, M.D., a family medicine physician and medical examiner for Knox County and the Federal Aviation Administration, proved to the region that airborne transport is of the utmost importance in maintaining the “golden hour,” during which critically injured trauma patients can have a greater chance of survival.

Based on evidence learned from the Vietnam War, the quicker a patient could get to a higher level of care, the better the survival rate.

Lash was medical director and program manager of UT LIFESTAR until his death in 1992.

“Many people have contributed to U-T LIFESTAR’s success,” said Jeff Gregory, program director of UT LIFESTAR.

“We have always been blessed with strong community support as well as a great working relationship with emergency providers.

“But it is our dedicated employees both present and past that have served as the backbone of our operation,” he added.

The UT LIFESTAR team consists of 52 medical personnel including paramedics, nurses and communication specialists, four mechanics and 16 pilots.

Dr. Christopher Brooks serves as UT LIFESTAR’s medical director, a position he has held since 1992.


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