Newswise — For the past six years, the University of Chicago Medicine's Violence Recovery Program (VRP) has provided extensive support services to thousands of patients who suffered violent injuries, most from gun violence.

Now, a growing need for this unique type of patient care has prompted other hospitals to create or expand their trauma programs — and they’re looking to UChicago Medicine for guidance and training.

“Our goal is to have our model duplicated throughout the nation,” said VRP Director Dwayne Johnson. “I truly believe this program is life-changing, and other institutions see that.”

Last month, Johnson and his colleagues hosted a four-day workshop on UChicago Medicine’s Hyde Park campus for a team from OSF Strive, the trauma recovery program at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Illinois.

The training was created and facilitated by UChicago Medicine's lead violence recovery specialist and licensed social worker, Christine Goggins, and it was sponsored by a grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Goggins will oversee all future training sessions as the program’s Training and Technical Assistance Provider.

A shorter training session was previously held for Grady Health System’s Marcus Trauma Center in Atlanta.

“We are honored to have this opportunity,” Goggins said. “Being at the forefront of violence intervention, we can provide a brave space for emerging programs to learn the technique and art of trauma informed care. That includes building community relationships and working with people who have lived experiences.”

Compassion, critical services aid the healing process

OSF Strive representatives sought ways to expand their 3-year-old trauma program that assists violent crime survivors age 14 and older who are experiencing post-traumatic distress but not receiving other care for mental health.

During their training at UChicago Medicine, they learned about the many forms of assistance the hospital-based VRP provides for patients who suffer a violent injury, starting from the minute they’re brought into the emergency room and continuing after discharge.

That assistance could be relaying information from the emergency room doctors to the victim’s family; helping the patient find safe housing, job training or psychological counseling; and advising family members who lost a loved one on ways to get help with funeral costs.

OSF Strive attendees learned about all aspects of the UChicago Medicine program, from street outreach efforts to key protocols and procedures. They met several of the hospital’s top trauma doctors and violence recovery specialists. The group also talked about a wide range of topics, including program funding and emotional coping tools used to manage the demands of this heart-wrenching job.

OSF Strive Supervisor Amie Nogami said she was impressed with UChicago Medicine’s VRP model and will return to Rockford “full of hope” and new ideas.

“We should be able to implement some of this in Rockford, but on a much smaller scale,” Nogami said. “It will help people make better choices and not just leave the hospital and return to the cycle of violence.”

‘This work changes people’s lives’

UChicago Medicine’s VRP launched in 2018 when the hospital opened its Level 1 Trauma Center, now one of the busiest in the nation.

They started with just two violence recovery specialists to provide patients and their families with social support, case management, crisis intervention, psychological services and connections to community-based social services.

But the program was so impactful, it grew quickly. Today, it has close to 20 violence recovery specialists who work around the clock. In 2023 alone, it helped nearly 2,000 UChicago Medicine patients, almost two-thirds of whom had gunshot wounds.

And, earlier this year, a new shadowing option gave first-year students at the Pritzker School of Medicine the opportunity to observe the VRP in action — and to gain a deeper understanding of why psychological recovery from trauma is important.

The VRP offers patients referrals to more than 60 community-based social and behavioral health agencies, so they will have a comprehensive recovery and reduce risk for re-injury.

“Prevention is such an important part of what we do,” said Selwyn O. Rogers Jr., MD, MPH, Founding Director of UChicago Medicine’s trauma center. “Doing this work changes people’s lives, and it leads to success in big and small ways.”