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Leslie J. Bisson, M.D., June A. and Eugene R. Mindell, MD, Professor and chair of the department of orthopaedics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (Photo by Douglas Levere)
Leslie J. Bisson, M.D., June A. and Eugene R. Mindell, MD, Professor and chair of the department of orthopaedics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (Photo by Douglas Levere)

NFL Physicians Society selects Bisson, UB professor & Bills head team physician, for top research award


Thu, Mar 7th 2024 08:35 am

After providing on-field care for Damar Hamlin when he suffered cardiac arrest, Bisson is leading an effort to do CPR training in underserved communities

By the University at Buffalo

Leslie J. Bisson, M.D., the Buffalo Bills medical director and the June A. and Eugene R. Mindell, MD, Professor and chair of the department of orthopaedics at the University at Buffalo, has received the top research award from the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS).

Bisson was awarded the Arthur C. Rettig Award for Academic Excellence last week at the NFLPS Scientific Meeting in Indianapolis, where he presented “How to Leverage an Athletic Training Outreach Program to Deliver Hands-Only CPR Training in Underserved Communities.”

Scott Rodeo, M.D., chair of the NFLPS Scientific Meeting and head team physician for the New York Giants, said, “Dr. Les Bisson and colleagues have established an impressive outreach program to teach CPR to individuals in underserved communities in the Buffalo area. They have assembled a very effective team to increase awareness of cardiac arrest and to teach bystanders how to initiate early response. This is a fabulous example of making a positive outcome out of the catastrophic Damar Hamlin episode.”

Bisson was a member of the team that provided on-field care for Hamlin when he suffered cardiac arrest on the field. That incredibly positive outcome prompted Bisson to become more familiar with a glaring statistic about out-of-hospital cardiac arrest events in general. Roughly 350,000 people suffer these events each year, according to the American Heart Association, but only about 10% survive. However, if cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is performed immediately, the individual’s chance of survival can double, even triple.

Other than a hospital, Bisson said, an NFL stadium is one of the safest places in the world to sustain a life-threatening injury.

“The NFL is highly resourced,” said Bisson, senior associate dean for clinical transformation in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and president of UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

But Bisson knew it was a far different picture at amateur sporting events in the community and at local schools.

“I started paying attention to the data on CPR, how often it’s performed by bystanders and especially how there is a racial and community disparity in how often people get bystander CPR training in certain areas versus others,” he said. “I realized that our medical and athletic training team had a window of opportunity to possibly help close that gap.”

The goal was to use the focus on bystander CPR to create a culturally sensitive, hands-only CPR training program; UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute funded the initial efforts.

“We started by collaborating with the Buffalo Black Nurses Inc. (BBNI), an incredible group who has a strong history of service to Buffalo’s underserved communities,” Bisson said. “They were instrumental in helping us to meet the communities’ needs and make the training culturally sensitive, and have been unbelievable in the amount of enthusiasm and positive energy they bring to our training sessions.”

Last June, Bisson hosted a CPR awareness tent at Buffalo’s annual Juneteenth festival.

“The amount of engagement by participants was astonishing,” he said.

In October, the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation awarded Bisson a $300,000 grant to address barriers to bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation/automated external defibrillator (CPR/AED) training in underserved communities in Buffalo. The aim is to train 60 providers as AHA-certified CPR instructors, and to train 8,000 Western New York student-athletes and their families in hands-only CPR/AED use.

In less than a year since the program began, Bisson and his partners have trained more than 5,000 athletes, their families and members of underserved communities in Western New York.

UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine used its existing athletic training outreach program to facilitate delivery of the training. Other partners include Buffalo Black Nurses Inc., UB, the Jacobs School chapter of Black Men in White Coats, the American Heart Association and the Buffalo Bills. 

Successful events have been held at area schools including the Buffalo Public Schools, SUNY Buffalo State University, and the Maryvale, Cheektowaga, Cleveland Hill and Lockport school districts.

Bisson and his team have created a “Toolkit to Start Your Own Program,” and he has already heard from several cities that want to replicate the program in their own communities.

Bisson’s collaborators on the NFL presentation are Tameka Felts of Buffalo Black Nurses Inc.; Scott Dinse, director of physical therapy; Jacob Geiger, clinical research assistant; Nomi Weiss-Laxer, Ph.D., clinical research scientist; all of UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine; and Karen Bisson.

In addition to serving as the head team physician for the Buffalo Bills, Bisson is also the medical director for the Buffalo Sabres, and the orthopaedic surgeon for SUNY Buffalo State University.

The Arthur C. Rettig Award was established in 2013 to recognize an NFL team physician for excellence in academic research and advancing the health and safety of players in the NFL. Rettig is a highly respected orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine and disorders of the upper extremities. He had been a leading member of the Indianapolis Colts medical staff since the team arrived in Indianapolis in 1984 and had served as head team physician.

“Our message to all bystanders is simple,” Bisson said. “Know the basics of how to respond, but even if you can’t do everything, doing something is still better than doing nothing at all. If we can get more people to feel comfortable calling 911, beginning chest compressions, and finding and using an AED, we will be closing that gap, no matter where a cardiac arrest happens.”

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