Elizabeth Scanlan Trump

Elizabeth S. Trump, former longtime director of nurses at Maryland Shock Trauma Center who played a pivotal role in its establishment with Dr. R Adams Cowley more than 50 years ago, died Wednesday of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at her home in the Hampton neighborhood of Baltimore County.

She was 78.

"Liz and R A. started and matured what is considered by everyone the most sophisticated trauma center in the United States, if not the world," said Dr. Thomas M. Scalea, Shock Trauma's physician-in-chief.

"She was the first trauma nurse, which is now a sub-specialty. They both had a remarkable vision and could not possibly have known what it would eventually become, and I think that's pretty cool," said Dr. Scalea. "They took an idea, and look what it became. Now, it's just taken for granted, but it came about because of the two of them," he said.

Roberta Schwartz Cowley, widow of Dr. R Adams Cowley, who founded and was director of the communication sciences and disorders program at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, said, "Maryland has lost one of its most notable nurses."

"He gave all of the credit for the founding of Shock Trauma to Liz, and often said, 'Without her, it would not have been,'" said Mrs. Cowley, who lives in Roland Park. "He said he could 'never thank her enough for what she had done for him.'"

"Liz was the Mother of Trauma Nursing and now there is a cadre of trauma nurses across the world because of her," said Karen E. Doyle, vice president of nursing operations at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

"She was driven, tenacious and tough and came from a time when nurses were handmaidens and subservient, but Dr. Cowley treated her as a full partner. She set the stage more than 40 years ago and was a true visionary. Even when she was sick, she said, 'I'm not afraid of anyone,'" said Ms. Doyle.

"Florence Nightingale wrote: 'You ask me why I do not write something. ... I think one's feelings waste themselves in words, they ought all to be distilled into actions and into actions that bring results.' This personifies Liz Scanlon," said Ms. Doyle. "She lived by that."

"I think of her as Maryland's Florence Nightingale," said Mrs. Cowley.

Mrs. Trump was a fresh graduate of the St. Agnes Hospital School of Nursing when she came in 1957 to work at what is now the University of Maryland Medical Center, for Dr. Cowley, who was a pioneering thoracic and vascular surgeon performing open-heart surgeries.

Being a combat surgeon during World, War II no doubt helped hone Dr. Cowley's theory that there was only a "golden hour" in the lives of severely injured patients, whereby specially trained doctors and nurses could save them in a uniquely equipped surgical unit and setting.

It was a vision shared by Mrs. Trump who after grueling days on her feet in the operating room spent hours writing grant proposals late into the night to help Dr. Cowley establish such a setting.

At the time Dr. Cowley opened a two-bed research center called Clinical Shock-Trauma Unit in 1961, the survival rate of accident victims was only 40 percent.

"Liz believed in him and his vision at a time when the mortality rate was abysmal. She was his advocate," said Mrs. Cowley.

To distinguish trauma nurses from the hospital's regular nurses, Dr. Cowley had them wear pink scrubs, which has continued to the present.

Both Dr. Cowley and Mrs. Trump were strong personalities, and at times their relationship was tempestuous and argumentative.

"She could be blunt to a fault," said Mrs. Cowley.

"I am," he told the old Sunday Sun Magazine in a 1982 interview, "a son-of-a-bitch. But I'm a lovable son-of-a-bitch."

In the same interview, Mrs. Trump said, "He can be very charming socially and in first impressions. Obviously he knows how to manipulate people. He couldn't have accomplished what he has otherwise."

She added: "The people he likes and respects the most he'll have these yelling matches with. People he doesn't really respect he rarely raises his voice or reprimands."

After one such incident, Mrs. Trump left her office and, when she returned, noticed a "gift" from Dr. Cowley hanging on her wall.

It said: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. For I am the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the valley."

Ms. Doyle described Mrs. Trump as a "very private person who didn't like public recognition."

Dr. Cowley died in 1991, and Mrs. Trump retired several years later.

"R A. used to say, 'Surgeons are a dime a dozen, but a good nurse, that is hard to find,' and that was Liz," said Dr. Scalea. "She never backed down and she knew the value of education. She set up a nursing education program in Maryland that was a huge accomplishment."

He added: "Shock Trauma is Liz's legacy — trauma care not only in the state and country but quite possibly the world. And this will be her legacy and R A.'s for many years to come."

The former Elizabeth Scanlon was born in Philadelphia, a daughter of a Bethlehem Steel Corp. foreman and a homemaker, and was raised in Pikesville.

She was a 1951 graduate of Mount St. Agnes High School, and after nursing school, spent her career at the University of Maryland and its Shock Trauma Center.

She was married in 1983 to Dr. Benjamin Franklin Trump, pathology department chair at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He died in 2008.

Mrs. Trump and her husband were avid trout fishermen and enjoyed spending time at a second home in Glenwood Springs, Colo., and traveling.

She was an active member of Trout Unlimited.

"They enjoyed fishing throughout the Midwest, Wyoming and Colorado," said former Baltimore County Delegate Martha S. Klima, a sister, who lives in Lutherville.

Mrs. Trump was a communicant of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Baltimore and Ware avenues, Towson, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday.

Also surviving are two brothers, Tom Scanlon of The Villages, Fla., and Joe Scanlon of Clitherall, Minn.; another sister, Jane Fitzpatrick of Olney; and many nieces and nephews.