UF Health TraumaOne celebrates 35th anniversary

Level I trauma center led the push for trauma care in Florida

UF Health TraumaOne, the only adult and pediatric Level I trauma center in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, marked its 35th year of service to the community today with an anniversary celebration on campus.

UF Health Jacksonville’s trauma center opened in 1983, the first trauma center in the state, and quickly became the region’s premier facility for immediate, lifesaving care. The trauma center currently treats approximately 4,000 patients each year.

“Trauma care is just one of the many missions we have at UF Health Jacksonville, but it is important because it saves so many lives each year,” said Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville. “Trauma can happen to anyone, at any time, and it does not discriminate. Our team has been doing this for 35 years, while also leading the way in disaster preparation, and we will continue to be a leader in trauma care moving forward.”

UF Health TraumaOne recently received official verification from the American College of Surgeons, a distinction given only to trauma centers that meet the most stringent criteria.

Trauma center verification is an evaluation process by the American College of Surgeons, or ACS, to evaluate and improve trauma care. The ACS verifies the presence of the resources listed in its guidelines, Resources for Optimal Care of the Injured Patient. These include commitment, readiness, resources, policies, patient care and performance improvement.

“The ACS verification symbolizes how dedicated our organization is to the people of this community,” said Andrew Kerwin, MD, chief of acute care surgery at UF Health Jacksonville. “So many caregivers have dedicated their lives to helping the people who live here. This anniversary celebration honors them.”

UF Health Jacksonville’s trauma program began with the help of many, but it was the efforts of three physicians in particular — Joseph Tepas, MDDavid Vukich, MD; and Ray Alexander, MD — that led to its creation. Their names are now part of the TraumaOne air ambulance fleet, with their initials emblazoned on the helicopters.

“The program is a combination of speed, and talent in the right place at the right time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Vukich, senior associate dean for hospital affairs and senior vice president and chief medical officer of UF Health Jacksonville. “That’s why we did it. From that came plenty of literature that says you save lives and that became our mission.”

Vukich and Tepas say that more than anything, the anniversary is a reminder of how many lives have been saved.

“We have enabled the citizens of our state to have almost universal coverage in the case of severe injury,” said Tepas, now an emeritus professor in the College of Medicine. “The numbers are clear in showing just how beneficial that has been, and when you look at what this program has done in 35 years, it has very much been part of the national team, very much been a leader, and to this day is the gold standard.”

Featured Faculty

David J. Vukich, MD, FACEP

David J. Vukich, MD, FACEP

Emeritus Professor