The horrors of violence and war lay bare — raw and deeply personal — before Juan Asensio, MD.
The renowned Creighton University trauma surgeon, who, in his youth, fled Cuba with his family, has made it his mission to save lives, bring about physical healing, and passionately crusade for something even more enduring: peace.
In the 12th century, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, already tasked with defending the Christian faith, was given another sacred charge — the protection of the poor and infirm.
In the intervening 900 years, the Hospitallers, now known as the Order of Malta, continue to regard their position as one aimed at any number of social ills, including war and poverty.
It’s a mission that Asensio, a 21st century Knight of Malta, has taken to heart in his role as the CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center’s chief of the Division of Trauma Surgery and Surgical Critical Care and a professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery.
Asensio has dedicated his life and a career spanning nearly four decades to the most complex issues in surgery under some of the most harrowing circumstances.
As his forebears in the Order of Malta, he has ministered to the grievously wounded in battle. He has worked trauma centers in hospitals where the bloody tableau of gun violence plays out hourly. He has been up to his elbows in a patient’s chest with no cause for hope and yet he has hoped, all the same.
“My job has been to address the most difficult problems known in life, the impossible challenges in surgery,” says Asensio, who arrived at Creighton in 2014 after stints in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago, and as a senior distinguished professor of surgery and surgeon with the armed forces at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the closest hospital for treating casualties of the American conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I have been blessed by God with a set of talents, and I am using those talents. This is what we do. These are the blessings of God. Our profession is the natural guardian of human rights.”