In April, 1947, the SS Grandcamp, a freight ship filled with ammonium nitrate, exploded in the harbor of Texas City, Texas. More than 600 people were killed and thousands were wounded in what became the worst industrial disaster in the United States. Due to its proximity to the accident, the University of Texas Medical Branch treated many of those injured in the blast.
As a result, Texas medical legend Dr. Truman Blocker organized and developed the Department of Surgery at UTMB into a multidisciplinary burns program, recruiting researchers, teachers and clinicians to prepare them for future mass disasters.
He subsequently persuaded the Shriners Hospitals of North America to develop the Shriners Hospital for Burns in Galveston, Texas, the first of its kind in the world. As a result, the Truman G. Blocker Burn Unit at UTMB has been recognized as one of the world’s leading centers for burn treatment, research and education.