Five years after launching Level 1 adult trauma center, UChicago Medicine set to exceed 18,800 adult trauma patients

UChicago Medicine has cared for more than 18,800 adult trauma patients in the past five years
UChicago Medicine has cared for more than 18,800 adult trauma patients in the past five years.

The University of Chicago Medicine is set to surpass 18,800 adult trauma patients since launching a Level 1 adult trauma center and Violence Recovery Program at its main campus on the city’s South Side five years ago.

While trauma volumes for April 2023 are being finalized, the academic health system released the latest figures to mark the five-year anniversary of its adult trauma program, which began on May 1, 2018. In June 2018, after the first month of operations, UChicago Medicine’s adult trauma center cared for 274 patients. After the first year, it treated 2,988 adult trauma cases. Five years later (from May 1, 2018, to March 30, 2023):

  • The adult trauma team has treated 18,494 patients.
  • The pediatric trauma team has cared for 2,893 children.
  • The violence recovery team has engaged 7,761 trauma patients in helping them transition back into the community, offering referrals to more than 60 community-based social and behavioral health agencies to ensure fuller recovery and to reduce the risk for re-injury and recidivism.

Based on monthly averages, the five-year total will reach or exceed 18,800 adult trauma patients. Adding pediatric cases, UChicago Medicine’s trauma care program is expected to have cared for more than 21,700 adults and children in that five-year timeframe.

Improving access to trauma care has had a significant impact on those living in the South Side:

  • Of the estimated 21,700 adult and pediatric trauma patients seen at UChicago Medicine since May 2018, about half came from the 12 ZIP codes surrounding the medical center.
  • Roughly 58% of adult patients and 78% of pediatric patients were from falls, vehicle accidents and other blunt trauma.
  • Penetrating injuries from gunshots and stabbings made up about 40% and 20% of adult and pediatric patients, respectively.

“Through the thousands of adult and pediatric patients our hospital has treated, our trauma program, like a rising tide, has lifted many boats within our health system and in the community,” said Selwyn O. Rogers Jr., Section Chief of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery and one of 12 surgeons at the adult trauma center. “We’ve saved lives and brought compassion to the work that we do with integrity. Providing adult trauma care has promoted collaboration within UChicago Medicine and made our health system a stronger 24/7 operation. And our proficiency at trauma care is leading to others seeking our partnership.”

Prior to 2018, the South Side had not had a hospital with an adult trauma center for 27 years. Michael Reese Hospital, which opened in 1881 and closed in 2009, discontinued its trauma care program in 1991; and what was then the University of Chicago Hospital offered adult trauma service only from 1986 to 1988.

In December 2015, UChicago Medicine announced plans to establish a Level 1 adult trauma center, building upon the existing Level 1 pediatric trauma and the burn center programs to provide a comprehensive system of trauma care.

The establishment of an adult trauma center at UChicago Medicine’s main campus on the South Side was hailed by area residents. “This is a true victory for the community,” Candace Henley, a local health activist who would become a volunteer member of UChicago Medicine’s Community Advisory Council, said at the time. “Community voices played a vital role shaping the hospital’s plan to increase access to critical services and meet the growing needs of its neighbors and patients.”

Breaking the cycle of gun violence

The trauma center also has served as an anchor for a more comprehensive approach to breaking the cycle of and preventing violence.

“Community voices continue to be crucial as we envision the future of trauma care and violence reduction,” said Brenda Battle, UChicago Medicine’s Chief Equity Officer. “We cannot address violence without addressing its root causes, including racism, poverty and failures of public policy. That means working with local partners to make sure our patients live in neighborhoods where they can find safety and opportunity.”

In 2018, alongside the opening of the center, UChicago Medicine launched its Violence Recovery Program (VRP), which works with clinicians to support trauma patients and their families. While physicians and nurses treat a person’s physical wounds, violence recovery specialists work to provide other types of support. That means listening to and talking with patients who are shocked or scared, calling their family and friends, or connecting them with resources like food or mental health counseling.

“The reality is this can happen to anybody. Nobody is immune to gun violence,” said Christine Goggins, lead violence recovery specialist at UChicago Medicine. “When something like this happens to you, you don’t have a sense of control. You don’t have your agency. That’s why our work has always been person-centered and community-focused. We’re here in this community, so we have an obligation to listen.”

Starting with two specialists in May 2018, the VRP has grown into a 20-person team, thanks largely to a gift by the Ellen & Ronald Block Family Foundation and the Hassenfeld Family Foundation.

Partnering with others

The VRP has worked to strengthen ties with local organizations as well.

Violence recovery specialists have been attending the Metropolitan Peace Academy to learn more about trauma-informed services and the principles of restorative justice. The 18-week program helps hospital staff members work more effectively with street outreach organizations, which have the relationships needed to intervene in neighborhood disputes. Fostering greater trust and respect between hospital and street outreach workers paves the way for effecting change.

“Our partnership with UChicago Medicine’s trauma center and Violence Recovery Program reflects the realities and complexity of the crisis of gun violence,” said Steven Perkins, director of field instruction for Metropolitan Peace Initiatives and its Peace Academy. “A hospital won’t solve it alone. Community organizations won’t solve it alone. Law enforcement won’t solve it alone. Tackling the crisis requires multidisciplinary and multilayered approaches and engagement — throughout our neighborhoods, within our institutions, and down to the street level where meaningful change is already happening.”

Other organizations have collaborated on initiatives to build off the trauma program, including a novel partnership that seeks to close the justice gap among trauma patients. In December 2022, UChicago Medicine partnered with Legal Aid Chicago to launch Recovery Legal Care to provide civil legal support to patients and families recovering from violent injuries.

In April 2021, UChicago Medicine became the latest training site for U.S. Army medical personnel in a program that involves military physicians, nurses and medics working alongside at top trauma programs across the country. This program is designed to not only help Army medical personnel sustain their trauma care skills but also to support UChicago Medicine in caring for trauma patients.

“The work accomplished at our trauma center these past five years is the result of strong collaboration, both within our medical system and with our neighbors and community partners,” said Health System President Tom Jackiewicz. “While we’ve increased the level and types of care we provide, we will continue to find ways to improve access to our care in the South Side and beyond.”


Adult Trauma Center: Timeline

1986-1988: University of Chicago Hospital was part of the city's trauma care system, operating an adult trauma center.

1990: Its Comer Children’s was designated as a Level 1 pediatric trauma center.

December 2015: UChicago Medicine announced plans to build a Level 1 adult trauma center at South Side campus.

May 2016: State regulatory review board approved UChicago Medicine’s plan to expand critical services, including adult trauma care.

October 2016: Inaugural Community Advisory Council was formed.

January 2017: Dr. Selwyn Rogers was recruited to head new trauma center.

December 2017: Larger, more modern adult E.D. was opened (which serves as the entry point for trauma patients).

April 2018: State Department of Public Health designated UChicago Medicine as a Level 1 adult trauma center.

May 1, 2018: UChicago Medicine activated its Level 1 adult trauma center and violence recovery program.