SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Next week, the south side of Chicago gets something it hasn't had in decades - a high-level adult trauma center at the University of Chicago Hospital. Trauma centers treat people with the most acute wounds, including gunshot injuries. From member station WBEZ, Natalie Moore reports on how activists pressured the university for years to reopen a trauma unit that it closed in the 1980s.
NATALIE MOORE, BYLINE: Nearly eight years ago, 18-year-old Damian Turner was shot a few blocks away from the world-class University of Chicago Hospital. But the ambulance couldn't stop there because the hospital didn't have an adult level-one trauma center. Instead, he was transported nine miles north to Northwestern University Hospital where he died of his injuries. Turner's death mobilized some young black activists here to try to get a trauma unit back. Here they are rallying in front of the hospital in 2011.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Fight, fight, fight because health care is a human right.
MOORE: They demanded that the university reopen an adult trauma center that closed in 1988 after losing millions of dollars treating patients lacking health insurance. Veronica Morris-Moore was early to join the campaign to pressure the university to reopen the center.
VERONICA MORRIS-MOORE: There are a lot of trauma-related deaths because gun violence is such a prevalent issue on the south side. It was then. It is now. It has been for decades. Our time as young people was because we were losing friends. We were at risk ourselves.
MOORE: Research backed them up. If you're shot more than five miles from a trauma center in Chicago, your likelihood of dying is 21 percent greater. The effort to reopen the center received a boost in 2015 when the school was bidding for the Obama Presidential Center. In an about-face, the university said it would again set up a trauma center. But it's a complicated process requiring lots of review. These centers are costly and need to be staffed with specially trained surgeons and nurses who treat penetrating wounds from things like car crashes, stabbings and gunshots. Dr. Selwyn Rogers heads the new center, which he says will also help local groups with social service needs centered around violence.
SELWYN ROGERS: We need to bring together the resources of the university, medical center and community partners so that we could be better able to address health disparities in the public health epidemic of intentional violence.
MOORE: One of those community partners is Julian DeShazier, pastor of University Church - not affiliated with the school. We meet on a weekday afternoon as the organist practices in the sanctuary.
(SOUNDBITE OF ORGAN MUSIC)
MOORE: Activists used this church as a meeting space when they were planning strategy.
JULIAN DESHAZIER: We began to talk about it from different angles in terms of faith and began to use our resources and access to try to help their voice be heard more. We were able to help mediate conversations between the medical center executives and the organizers who are on the ground doing that work - helping them talk to each other better. That's the kind of work that churches can do when they're really rooted inside of the community.
MOORE: The hospital estimates that trauma care could cost upwards of $50 million a year. While trauma injuries are unpredictable, it says the new trauma unit could treat up to 4,000 patients a year. That will start when it officially opens Tuesday. For NPR News, I'm Natalie Moore in Chicago.
(SOUNDBITE OF BOARDS OF CANADA'S "ROYGBIV")
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