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Hyde Park Trauma Center or Obama Library? Both Are Possible, Residents Say

By Quinn Ford | May 9, 2014 8:52am
 A coalition of South Side community groups says it is opposing the University of Chicago's push for the Obama Presidential Library if the university continues to refuse to open a Level 1 adult trauma center.
South Side Residents: 'No Trauma Center, No Obama Library'
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HYDE PARK — Hawaiians are not the only ones opposing the University of Chicago's bid to land President Barack Obama's presidential library.

Community groups in Kenwood, Hyde Park and Woodlawn are protesting the potential choice, saying the university has another priority it must address first: opening a trauma center.

Protesters are again calling on the university to reopen its Level 1 adult trauma center after it shuttered in 1988, citing high costs. The university still operates a trauma center for children 16 and under, but community residents say that is not good enough.

Last year, the head of the university's medical center said the hospital was at capacity and would need to forego other services if it were to provide adult trauma care.

“If a level-one trauma center is needed, it will need to be at another hospital," U of C Medical Center Dean Kenneth Polonsky said at the time.

If U of C were to get the library, a lot of fundraising would have to take place first. Protesters say that money should go toward the community instead.

"Why is it the same resources they could muster for a library they cannot muster to bring a trauma center to an area that's been referred to as a trauma desert?" asked Jawanza Malone, director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.

Currently, there are no trauma centers on the South Side. A shooting victim in Kenwood must be taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital on the North Side, John H. Stroger Hospital or Mount Sinai on the West Side or Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

At a town hall meeting Thursday night, protesters pointed to the death of Damian Turner, an 18-year-old who was shot just blocks from the University of Chicago hospital. They say he would have lived if there was still a trauma center there.

"I think most people don't get it," Malone said. "We know too many people who have died on their way to a trauma unit ... It is literally the difference between life and death."

Virginia Parks, a professor at U of C's School of Social Service Administration, stressed the importance of the relationship and responsibilities a university has with its surrounding community.

Parks said the university would clearly benefit from the presidential library — and those benefits should be shared.

"I think there's a special responsibility then that would be laid on the shoulders of the university to share that benefit to a degree," she said. "One way the community is asking that happens is through a trauma center."

Veronica Morris-Moore, 21, believes a new trauma center in the area would be something President Obama would support. Morris-Moore heads the student group Fearless Leading by the Youth, part of a larger coalition to bring a trauma center to Hyde Park.

Morris-Moore pointed to the president's initiatives to help stem violence in his adopted hometown of Chicago.

"If we're asking the University of Chicago to open up a trauma center to help save black lives, and they're telling us it's not a priority of theirs, how can we really say that their priorities are aligned with Obama's?

"If they were willing to open up a trauma center, I'd be willing to lay the bricks of the library myself."