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The Chicago Trauma Center Fight


When I was living in Chicago earlier this decade, one of the big social movement stories then unfolding was the fight to get the University of Chicago to reopen an adult trauma center at its Medical Center. The movement started after the death of Damian Turner, who was shot four blocks away from the Medical Center but, because the university had closed its adult trauma center two decades earlier for financial reasons, and because the entire South Side was subsequently left without a trauma center, died on the nearly ten-mile drive to Northwestern.

Turner’s death sparked a network of activists, partly led by Turner’s mom, to demand that the U of C reopen its trauma center. (I was a body in the crowd at a couple of action events.) The basic principle was this: the University of Chicago, a bastion of extraordinary wealth, privilege, and whiteness, had a moral obligation to provide trauma care to surrounding neighborhoods that possess none of those, and which are also subject to extraordinary levels of gun violence of the sort that took Turner’s life.

After years of grassroots work and action, the movement won. The UCMC Adult Trauma Center reopened on May Day. Protest works.


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