University of Chicago Trauma Center completed, could open by May 1

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More than 25 years after the last South Side trauma hospital, the University of Chicago has completed a new Level 1 adult emergency facility which could open early next year.

"Today is a good day, ya'll," said Rev. Julian DeShazier, senior pastor of University Church.

The University of Chicago Trauma Center, located at 5656 S. Maryland Ave. in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, is being touted as the newest and most advanced adult emergency department in Chicago.

The center will not start accepting patients until it undergoes review and certification by the Illinois Department of Public Health, which is slated to be completed by May 1.

Community leaders fought and protests were held for years demanding a trauma center that served the South Side after Michael Reese Hospital closed its trauma center in 1991.

On Tuesday, the media was invited to view the $35 million trauma center.

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When the University of Chicago Trauma Center opens in a few months, it will be the only Level 1 trauma center on the South Side.

Officials acknowledged that it was a long road.

"This is a big deal, this is a huge deal," said Derek Douglas, vice president of civic engagement at the University of Chicago. "I think what today reflects is what can be accomplished when the university and the community come together to accomplish common goals."

In 2010, public outcry was sparked by the shooting of a well-known activist near the University of Chicago campus who died after arriving at a trauma center miles away.

Students, friends and relatives of gunshot victims joined in the protest to have a trauma center on the South Side.

Jasamine Harris, formerly of Fearless Leading by the Youth, was one of them.

"Those black kids in Woodlawn fought for that, no one was talking bringing a trauma center to the South Side of Chicago," she recalled.

The trauma center comes as the number of fatal shootings in Chicago rose this year for the first time in recent years. The center hopes to address that problem.

"Gunshot wounds and stab wounds, we will take care of it all," said Dr. Selwyn Rogers, chief of the trauma center.

The new facility will include special rooms for sexual assault victims and those needing mental health help. The aim is to provide services and support that could prevent violence.

"We want to touch lives beyond the context of sewing people up and sending them back into the communities where they live," Rogers said.
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