Community Members Discuss Goals for Trauma Center at Town Hall Meeting

Attendees Consider Gun Violence Prevention and the University’s Relationship to the Community.

By Sonia Schlesinger

Many of the people who successfully fought for a trauma center at the University of Chicago over the past half-decade are now pushing to define what that center will look like.

Community residents met at Kenwood’s Kennicott Park Fieldhouse on Thursday to discuss their goals for the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) Trauma Center, which is set to open in 2018. The town-hall style meeting organized by the Trauma Center Coalition (TCC) began with a panel discussion by nurses and social service workers from local hospitals and organizations. After the panel, attendees broke into smaller groups to consider a list of questions about their priorities for the center and its relationship with the community.

In September 2015, the University announced that it would open a Level I adult trauma center in partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital on 68th Street and South California Avenue. In December, the University decided the center would be located in Hyde Park at UCMC instead. TCC and other activists had urged the University to build a center since 2010 and are now organizing to develop plans to ensure that the community is best served by the future center.

Approximately 50 people attended the meeting, including members of TCC, Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.

The panel featured UCMC nurse Adriana Sanchez; Carol Reese, a member of Stroger Hospital’s Healing Hurt People (HHP) program; and Sheila Regan, a CeaseFire employee at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). HHP and CeaseFire are violence prevention programs that aim to decrease re-injury among youth. CeaseFire currently partners with four trauma centers in Chicago and hopes that UCMC will be its fifth.

Regan explained the need for violence-interrupters in the communities that the trauma center will serve. “Forty-five percent of patients treated for injury are re-injured within five years,” she said. “We have credibility and relationships with the people of highest risk because we pull our staff from those pools. We feel we can improve their lives.”

After the panel, attendees broke into four groups to discuss the meeting organizers’ list of seven questions including how the University of Chicago can help prevent gun violence and improve its relationship with its neighbors.

One group proposed the establishment of a community center and training program such as CPR classes for community members to be able to volunteer in the hospital. Other suggestions included reductions in parking costs at the center and satellite clinics in neighborhoods throughout the South Side.

Several groups discussed the importance of a community advisory board to the center. They hope such a board will include patients, families, youth, people of color, and low-income members of the community. Attendees also emphasized the need for the board to communicate effectively with members of UCMC staff.

Veronica Morris-Moore, a STOP organizer and co-founder of Fearless Leading by the Youth, which helped plan the protests for a trauma center, concluded the meeting. “This is real, this will happen, and the community needs to understand that these groups aren’t going anywhere,” she said. “We will keep organizing to bring the U of C to where it needs to be so that the community can continue to survive.”