Two of three top members of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' medical team are recent hires who have brought national expertise to the University of Arizona's Department of Surgery.
Dr. G. Michael Lemole Jr. and Dr. Peter Rhee were both hired as part of an expansion of the surgery department under Dr. Rainer Gruessner, who has been building up the surgery team since he joined the UA from the University of Minnesota in 2007.
Lemole, a neurosurgeon, performed Giffords' surgery along with neurosurgeon Dr. Martin E. Weinand. Lemole is a leading authority on skull base surgery who became chief of neurosurgery at the UA in October 2009. He previously headed the skull base program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Lemole earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard, graduated medical school from the University of Pennsylvania and completed his residence in neurological surgery in 2002 at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.
As director of the trauma center, Rhee has been directing medical care of Giffords and the other shooting victims. A trauma surgeon who has worked for the military on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, Rhee is medical director of University Medical Center's trauma center. He previously worked at busy trauma centers in Seattle and Washington, D.C., and was director of the Navy Trauma Training Center at Los Angeles County-University of Southern California.
UMC is Southern Arizona's only Level 1 trauma facility, the highest designation for trauma centers. That means it's the only hospital in the region equipped to handle severe injuries that carry a risk of death or significant disability in both children and adults.
"It wasn't just one person; it was a mini-mass casualty that we had here in Tucson," Rhee said of Saturday's shooting. "The hospital, with its preparation, due to their constant practice and experience, was able to pull this thing through."