Philadelphia Surgeon and PAMED Everyday Hero Is Driven by a Sense of Service

Last Updated: Jul 14, 2020

Dane Scantling, DO, MPH, EMT-P, is a trauma, critical care, and emergency surgery fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He is the recipient of the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s Everyday Hero Award for April 2020.

Scantling“My path to becoming a doctor was not a straight line,” says Dr. Scantling, a physician who is entering his final year of fellowship training.

While he wasn’t always sure he would pursue a career as a physician, he has had an unwavering interest in public health and a desire to help others. He became an emergency medical technician while he was an undergraduate and was drawn to that work by the sense of service embodied by his fellow EMTs.

He earned his Master’s in public health and ultimately went on to complete his medical school education at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. When it came time to choose a specialty, he gravitated to surgical residency and then on to trauma, critical care, and emergency surgery fellowship. “It gives you the ability to quickly impact someone’s life,” he says.

Recently, Dr. Scantling led a successful effort to gain his colleagues’ support for the opening of independently funded pilot programs to study the effectiveness of safe injection sites. Cities like Philadelphia have proposed the creation of these sites where people with substance use disorders can use illicit drugs with trained staff ready to respond in case of an overdose. 

In October 2019, at PAMED’s House of Delegates meeting, Dr. Scantling proposed a resolution to support these pilot programs. That resolution was approved by physicians and medical students at the meeting and adopted as PAMED policy.

While Dr. Scantling  sees the effects of drug abuse on his patients, the reason he became involved in the issue is a personal one.

His sister-in-law died on her birthday alone and at home at age 26 following an accidental heroin overdose. She had struggled with addiction for years prior to her death but had been sober for nearly a year before her relapse. He saw how his wife’s close-knit family was affected and came to believe that, if his sister-in-law had access to a safe injection site, she would still be alive.

“Safe injection sites keep people alive long enough to stop using,” he says. “All of the scientific evidence supports them.”

Through his work as a physician, Dr. Scantling is always looking for new ways to support his patients and his community. His specialty enables him to help a wide variety of patients – from operating on gunshot victims to complex medical patients.

This spring, his medical training expanded to include something he hadn’t anticipated just a few months earlier – treating COVID-19 patients. Dr. Scantling spent a month at his hospital’s COVID unit during the height of the pandemic in Philadelphia. “That experience will stay with me for the rest of my life,” he says.

It was the first time during his training that he had to deal with so many unknowns, given that there is still so much the medical community is learning about COVID-19. “What we did was changing day by day, hour by hour,” he says. He noticed a remarkable level of collaboration between hospitals and intensive care units across the United States and the world as doctors shared experiences and treatment strategies.

With just one more year of training to go, Dr. Scantling is looking forward to the next chapter in his career. He enjoys doing research, particularly with a public health-oriented spin. After seeing the devastating effects of gun violence on his own patients, he is focusing on gun violence prevention.

Wherever Dr. Scantling’s path leads him next, one thing is certain – he will remain committed to serving his patients and to finding public health solutions that will make his community better.

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