Presenting Lessons Learned

Orlando Medical Center Surgeon Michael Cheatham Brings Pulse Nightclub Shooting Experience to SCHA Executive Leadership Summit

Dr. Michael Cheatham, MD, Chief Surgical Quality Officer at Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC), had more than 20 years of surgical experience before the fateful morning of June 12, 2016, when victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting began pouring into his hospital and challenged the careful preparation and plans the health system had in place for catastrophic events. 

As the only Level One Trauma Center in mid-Florida and the closest medical center to the club, ORMC patients began arriving at 2:10 a.m., just 10 minutes after first responders arrived on the scene. Four patients arrived within seconds of each other, and the hospital would admit roughly one victim a minute for the next 40. 

Cheatham, who will be a featured speaker at SCHA’s Executive Leadership Summit in July, was not on call that night, but was summoned to the emergency room shortly after the first patients arrived. He remained there for the next 36 hours, a marathon shift that was vital and necessary in order to treat 49 victims and one SWAT team member.

After jumping into the fray for those who needed an immediate surgical response, Cheatham worked to activate the hospital’s incident command system to ensure logistical needs for both the mass casualty incident and normal hospital operations were met by dispatching staff and other resources effectively. The system remained in place for the 36 hours following the incident.

Since then, Cheatham has frequently shared his experience in hopes of preparing other health systems for responding effectively to such overwhelming events. While it is nearly impossible to anticipate all the possible effects and outcomes of any particular mass casualty incident, Cheatham and ORMC learned a great deal about how to provide community-wide family communication and support, as well as the challenges of post-event counseling needs for their own staff after such a traumatic event.

For more on Cheatham and the hospital’s response to the Pulse shooting, we recommend his co-authored article in the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons available here. Click here to register to hear Cheatham at SCHA’s 2017 Executive Leadership Summit on July 25-27, 2017 at the Inn on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.