Regional One Health’s Firefighters Burn Center helps burn survivors return to normal, productive lives as quickly as possible. That treatment focuses on the patient’s complete care.
When Ram Velamuri, MD, came to Memphis in 2016, his mission to be involved in a patient’s complete care aligned well with that work. For him, it all started at a younger point during his youth in India, a country that has a high rate of burns, in part because of the number of people who cook over open fires in highly flammable settings.
“I wanted to be a hardcore plastic surgeon who not only makes people look better but to also get them to be functional,” he said. “Plastic surgeons usually come on board during care when other services are finished. I wanted to help start the patient care. I want to get them functional and able to live normal lives. These people are traumatized when they walk in the door and someone has got to help them.”
Dr. Velamuri’s father inspired him to pursue a career that allows him to practice medicine as well as teach it. Today, Dr. Velamuri is an assistant professor of plastic surgery at University of Tennessee Health Science Center and a plastic surgeon in the Firefighters Burn Center with special interests in burn, reconstructive, lower extremity trauma, wounds, laser resurfacing of burn scars, hand trauma, breast reconstruction and body contouring. He is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
“Dad said medicine is second only to teaching. This gave me the opportunity to do both,” he said.
After completing medical school at Dr. D.Y. Patil Medical College in Mumbai, India, and general surgery residency at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Belgaum, India, Dr. Velamuri made the move to the U.S. in 2009 and deepened his passion for burn care while at Saint Louis University Hospital. He credits mentors there who not only showed him how to help patients look better but to also take care of them when they were sick.
Dr. Velamuri’s desire to serve patients began in India. He also relies on an important part of his Indian heritage in how he cares for patients: the sport of cricket, something he still plays regularly.
“Because I’m a sports man – I play a lot of cricket – I believe in a team-based approach to care,” he said. “Being in a burn center gives you that with clinical care doctors, nutritionists, pharmacists and nurses. And being a plastic surgeon, I pay attention to detail. That helps you look into the finer aspects of each individual’s care.”
Burn care isn’t for everyone, but Dr. Velamuri finds it especially rewarding when he has the opportunity to work with a patient with severe burns and can restore their integrity and ability to function in society.
“I enjoy the challenges of taking care of patients throughout their entire journey,” he said. “From the time it’s critical to just minor issues that affect their day-to-day routine. I like taking care of sick patients. I like dealing with difficult problems and complex wounds. Saving a 70- or 80-percent burn patient and helping them not only live but have functional lives in society is the biggest reward.”