by Daniel Kaplan
JCUA Community Organizer
Yesterday, JCUA took part in an interfaith vigil with student and community groups comprising the Trauma Center Coalition. Several dozen strong, we marched to one of the most prestigious medical centers in the country: the University of Chicago Medical Center. Our march was part of a greater campaign to address gun violence in the neighborhood and a lack of response from surrounding institutions. Gun violence remains a crisis of epidemic proportions, particularly on Chicago’s south side near the medical center. Yet while our city has six trauma centers for gunshot victims, not a single one is located on the south side.
For this reason, we held vigil as part of a broader week of action to demand the University of Chicago open a level 1 adult trauma center for the surrounding community. While the University of Chicago operates a pediatric trauma center, it has not opened its doors for nearby adult victims of gun violence since 1988. While reflecting on the crisis, we heard stories of mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons who were gunned down within reach of the university. Even though the medical center has the facilities to treat gunshot trauma, these people died in ambulance rides on the way to trauma centers elsewhere.
I was appalled to hear these stories from an area that many are calling a “trauma center desert“. This desert covers an area with one of the city’s highest rates of gun violence. Chicagoans in the trauma center desert are disproportionately black and lacking health insurance relative to better served parts of the city. Listening to the testimony of lost loved ones, I could not help but wonder: why are our resources for treating gun violence completely absent in neighborhoods where they are the most needed? Why has the University of Chicago not responded to this glaring disparity by reopening its center?
If family and community members were dying in trauma center deserts on the north side, would nearby universities respond differently?