UAMS Medical Center Becomes First in State Designated Level I Trauma Center

By Nate Hinkel

UAMS received the designation following an August survey by the state health department, which is administering the new statewide trauma system. At the top of the system for coordinating emergency care in the state, Level I trauma centers must have specialized surgeons on duty at all times to quickly care for the most serious and urgent cases.

The UAMS program includes board-certified emergency medicine physicians and surgeons. UAMS trauma services include a state-of-the-art Emergency Department with 34 private patient rooms that opened in 2009 along with a major hospital expansion. The department also features a general X-ray room and a computed tomography (CT) scanner, eliminating the need to transport trauma patients for imaging.

“The Level I designation reflects hard work by our trauma program and hospital to be a catalyst for improving trauma care in Arkansas,” said Richard Pierson, UAMS vice chancellor for clinical programs and UAMS Medical Center executive director. “Our trauma program encompasses a broad, multi-disciplinary approach to patient care that builds on a foundation of our skilled professionals and our facilities.”

Level I centers also must include education, preventive and outreach programs as well as a program of trauma research. UAMS education programs include hosting regular symposiums for health care professionals across the state on new emergency medicine techniques or refresher courses on trauma practices. A patient referral call center and extensive telemedicine network with rural hospitals are among UAMS trauma outreach efforts.

UAMS leads or participates in numerous injury prevention programs including youth accident prevention programs, the anti-drunk driving program Prom Promise, driver safety programs for older drivers and car seat safety education.

“Achieving the Level I designation represents an institution wide commitment when you consider the education, research and outreach efforts with the patient care element, which fits with the UAMS mission to improve the health of all Arkansans,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D. “A coordinated statewide trauma system will save lives by getting injured patients to the care they need more quickly.”

The statewide trauma system, expected to be operational in 2011, will connect hospitals, ambulance services and other emergency responders statewide to transfer trauma patients as quickly as possible to the facility best able to treat their specific injuries. Four levels of trauma designations for Arkansas hospitals will denote the kinds of resources available in a trauma center and the number of patients admitted yearly.

Injuries remain the leading cause of death for adults and children ages 1-44. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said for those with severe injuries, getting to a Level I trauma center can lower the risk of death by 25 percent. In Arkansas, the death rate for all injuries has been consistently higher than the national average.

A 2008 report by the American College of Surgeons said the overall injury fatality rate in Arkansas is nearly 50 percent higher than the national average, and the injury fatality rate for motor vehicle crashes (the second most common injury mechanism in the state) is 60 percent higher than the national average. In 2005, Arkansas ranked 50th in the nation for timely trauma center accessibility.

There were 6,411 trauma-related visits to the UAMS Emergency Department out of 51,246 patient visits from June 1, 2009 through May 31, 2010. The number of UAMS trauma patients admitted to the hospital has increased more than 140 percent, from 720 to 1,756 between fiscal years 2004 and 2010.

Act 393, which established the trauma system, was approved by the state Legislature in 2009 and signed into law by Gov. Mike Beebe on March 13, 2009.

The UAMS Level I designation is for four years, after which there will be a survey for renewal.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a 540,000-square-foot hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and six institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. UAMS has 2,775 students and 748 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or