Joe Truskot, The Salinas Californian | June 11, 2014
Marcie and Alex Di Stante greet friends at Nicklaus Golf Monterey, formerly Pasadera Country Club, where Di Stante was being honored as Monterey County’s Physician of the Year. (Photo: Joe Truskot/Off 68)
"I'm not the type of person who likes to be the center of attention," Di Stante said. "I'm very low key. I just like to get things done."
Dr. Di Stante joined the medical staff at Natividad Medical Center in 2006. He is now the chief of surgery and trauma director. In addition, Dr. Di Stante started the bariatric surgery program in 2011 as an alternative means of helping patients lose weight. He is also a former chief of staff at Natividad Medical Center. He received his medical degree from Ponce School of Medicine in Puerto Rico, his surgical residency was at the Policlinic in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and his fellowship in trauma/critical care was at University of California, Irvine. He is board certified in general surgery and a member of the American College of Surgeons.
Dr. Jim Hlavacek, an anesthesiologist at Natividad Medical Center who has worked closely with Dr. Di Stante, praised the surgeon's ability and his friendly, humble manner. "The vote to make him Physician of the Year was unanimous," Hlavacek said.
The new trauma center
"Putting a trauma center together is a massive undertaking," Di Stante explained. "It's like no other program. It touches everyone in the county. Each county has to have a trauma plan approved by the state's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency." Monterey's former plan was 'we fly them to San Jose' and that's what we continue to do We were among the last areas of the state to have its own trauma center."
Di Stante further explained that the determination of which hospital would get the trauma center involved a third party. Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital also sought the designation. A team from the American College of Surgeons reviewed the applications based on a checklist of optimal resources for the care of a trauma patient. The results of this review, the mission of the hospital and the extensive historical data on how trauma was managed in the past were considered in making the recommendation. Among other things, Natividad has a helicopter landing pad, which SVMH does not, but Di Stante said that was not the only deciding factor.
"A helipad is just one of the things they looked at," said Di Stante. "We also have a trauma registry. All the patients' data, using specific hospital codes, was entered into our database. We had three years of past data available. They looked at how we had managed trauma patients before we had sufficient resources. They picked the hospital and then wrote up the recommendation, noting 'this is what they [SVMH] don't have and need to get.'
"The review team will return in December and look at everything that was done. The data bank links to a national data bank. They will plug in the variables and determine the average survival rate and whether that rate is within the acceptable range."
The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency is a state oversight organization that manages certification. Re-certification comes every three years.
"The things we were lacking are helping us design the system," Di Stante said. "Structurally, we will have the only angio-lab in the area that can do catheterizations on trauma patients and stop the bleeding." The money to create this lab had already been designated. "Now it will be part of the trauma center."
"Trauma" is determined by the national trauma triage criteria used by helicopter and ambulance societies. "It's very specific," said Di Stante and includes heart rate, blood loss, head injuries.
The center at Natividad will be the only Level II trauma center in the state that is fully staffed with trauma trained surgeons. The leadership team includes Alex Di Stante, M.D., a fellowship-trained trauma medical director; Chelsi Mettler, R.N., a trauma program manager; and Kristen Osland, R.N., a trauma prevention and outreach nurse.
In honoring Di Stante, his peers recognized his enthusiasm and vision.
"Natividad is a great place to work. The people are so dedicated. The trauma guys that are coming to work here are true professionals. It will be the only place to work where everything will be perfect — everything is evidence-based," said Di Stante.
The Monterey County Medical Society has an approximate membership of 300 doctors mostly associated with Natividad Medical Center, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, and the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Its leadership includes Kelly O'Keefe, M.D., president; Jeffrey Keating, M.D., president-elect; John Clark, Jr., M.D.; past president; Patricia Ruckle, M.D., secretary; and Steven Vetter, M.D., treasurer.
The personal side
Alex Di Stante grew up in New York City and Westchester County with his parents and brother. He and his wife Marcie live in San Benancio with their two children, Joseph and Alyssa, who are students at San Benancio Middle School.