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C. Edward Hartford

Distinguished Alumni Award for Service (2019)

C. Edward Hartford


In 1968, there were only three burn treatment centers in the United States. Ed Hartford was a newly hired associate in surgery who was tasked with creating a fourth at the University of Iowa. He ultimately led the Burn Treatment Center at UI Hospitals & Clinics for seven years and created the multidisciplinary approach that now characterizes modern burn care. Hartford’s research papers on the impact of high-intensity stress on the human psyche formed the basis of what came to be known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When Hartford left Iowa in 1977, the burn treatment center he founded treated approximately 100 to 115 patients per year. The University of Iowa still has the state’s only American Burn Association-verified Burn Center, due Hartford’s indefatigable efforts.

Hartford is grateful to Robert T. Tidrick, MD, who first charged him with developing the burn unit. He also worked closely with other colleagues, including G. Patrick Kealey, MD, and Nancy Andreasen, MD, PhD, who helped develop a holistic and comprehensive approach to burn treatment and care. One of the many noteworthy accomplishments in Hartford’s long career was the design and development of an apparatus used to stretch the skin around the mouth of a burn patient after skin grafting. Wounds contract as they heal, and the apparatus helped in healing skin around the mouth with less contraction.

Burn patients go through a great ordeal on their road to recovery, and the human side of patient care has always been important to Hartford. He still maintains contact with several of his burn patients and loves getting letters and photographs from them and their families. He would also occasionally take his children through the burn unit and introduce them to his patients.

In addition to his commitment to the Burn Treatment Center, Hartford was an active member of the Iowa City community. One of the highlights was being team physician for the Iowa City High School Little Hawk football team from 1966 to 1976. Some of his children’s classmates still talk about how well he took care of their injuries and was an encouragement to the team.

Hartford believes the practice of medicine is about solving problems and puzzles. He has written numerous papers, chapters, and books on the care and treatment of burns throughout his career and served as a reviewer for the Journal of Burn Care and Research from 2006 to 2009. He has had many professional affiliations, served on countless committees, and held many academic appointments. Notable appointments include the board of trustees of the American Burn Association, the board of medical advisors for the International Association of Fire Fighters Burn Foundation, the burns advisory board for Shriners Hospitals for Children, and serving as co-chairman of the burn care committee of the International Society of Burn Injuries.

He encourages students and physicians to always continue with research because “there is always something new and different to learn,” Hartford says.