News Blog

Transforming Trauma

As we look toward the opening of our new Pavilion for Advanced Care (PAC) and the transition of our trauma center from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, throughout the month of January, the News Blog is highlighting some of the latest news and stories from across the areas of Penn Medicine that will find new homes in the PAC.

Infographic_FINALSince its inception in 1989, Penn Medicine’s Level 1 Trauma Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) has been among the best in the nation. In the years since, the program has undergone many changes, growing into what is today an internationally recognized center for the care of the most critically ill and injured patients. Now on the precipice of the next major chapter in Penn Medicine’s Trauma Program, we’re pausing to look back at the original creation of the program and the development of its new home in the Pavilion for Advanced Care at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.

It all started in 1987, when C. William Schwab, MD, founding chief of the Trauma Center and academic division, director of the Firearm Injury Center at Penn, and professor of Surgery, arrived at Penn charged with the task of creating a trauma program and all the components necessary to care for patients in urgent need of specialized treatment. These developments included the establishment of a flight program and construction of a Penn’s first heliport. Schwab had taken on the task twice previously in his career and received training from those who served in medical units during the Vietnam War, from which the world’s first comprehensive trauma programs were developed. There was no doubt Penn had found the right man.

Officially up and running by 1989, Penn’s Trauma Center has grown exponentially over the years. Within only a few years, Penn had established an international fellowship training program, implemented a trauma-specific program for Advanced Practice Nurses, and created the Office of Life Support Education for Trauma, an interdisciplinary regional resource that offers simulation, clinical practice and nationally accredited courses in its year-round curriculum.

The flow of critically ill and injured patients also exploded, growing from zero to 1,500 in a few years, due in part to the mid-90s epidemic of firearm violence in Philadelphia, one of the worst in the nation; it peaked at 500 gun injuries cared for at HUP in just one year.

Today, Penn’s trauma program is comprised of experts from nearly 30 surgical and medical specialties. The combined expertise of these teams provides top-level care to thousands of critically ill and injured patients every year. Through the continued development of training programs, Penn has also turned out some of the world’s foremost experts in traumatology, surgery and critical care. 

Additionally, by working closely with experienced emergency responders from across the region served by five strategically located PennSTAR Helicopters, our trauma team has been able to reach further and  save more lives. These partnerships, combined with leading-edge technology and a facility designed to expedite access to all levels of care and medical disciplines, will support continued improvements in survival rates and quality of life for any patient with a life threatening injury.

Throughout the month of January, multi-disciplinary teams have been transitioning to the new care spaces in the PAC, and next week, Penn Medicine’s Trauma Center and Program will officially move. The team will be one of the last to take up residence in the building, marking one of the biggest milestones in the development of the facility. While HUP will continue providing a full-service ED, equipped and staffed to handle tens of thousands of visits each year, Penn Medicine’s seriously injured patients will now be transported to the Level I Trauma Center at the PAC.

In addition to a new covered and protected ambulance entrance with off-street parking for EMS providers and a  high-tech and heavy capacity  helipad on the roof of the PAC, the new Trauma Center also houses the John Paul Pryor, MD, FACS, Shock Trauma and Resuscitation (STAR) Unit. This very large unit includes a dedicated state-of-the-art, five-bay trauma resuscitation area with integrated advanced computer imaging, immediate access to designated trauma operating rooms, and expansive critical care units. The STAR unit is integrated with two other emergency department critical resuscitation rooms that provide an overall capacity to handle seven casualties if needed. All of this provides the personnel, facilities and resources for the best chance of survival the moment any patient needs it.

“This facility is unlike any other trauma center I have ever seen in this country, and throughout the world,” said Schwab. “The result of three years of planning, interdisciplinary meetings with all our clinicians, integrated concepts of design, and integral space for education and research has created the next level of sophistication for trauma care.”

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