The Army launched its AMCT3 program in 2019. Today it operates seven AMCT3 training sites at busy trauma centers across the country, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center, University of North Carolina Medical Center, Cooper University Hospital, Oregon Health & Science University Hospital, among others.
Exchanging best practices
The first cohort of Army clinicians—the 20-member 759th FRST—will begin arriving at UChicago Medicine from Fort Bragg in North Carolina as soon as this fall.
Lt. Col. Timothy Plackett, a trauma surgeon, arrived in January 2021, ahead of the team. But his connection to Chicago started long before: Plackett grew up in the suburbs, attended Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and did training rotations at South Side and south suburban hospitals, including Provident Hospital, Advocate Christ Medical Center and the now-closed Michael Reese Hospital. He joined the Army in 2003 and was eventually deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Before arriving at UChicago Medicine, he was commander of the 759th FRST that is joining the Medical Center.
“To be back home and be able to give back to the South Side community has been really important to me,” he said.
In his first few months, Plackett has already performed about 50% more surgeries than he would have as an active-duty surgeon at a military hospital and cared for a wider variety of patients with different types of injuries and illnesses. He is also forging new relationships across the medical campus and the University of Chicago, where he’s already involved in several basic-science research projects.
“We’re learning best practices from one another and using what’s been learned in Iraq and Afghanistan to directly change the care we’re providing on the South Side,” he said. “And the care we’ll be providing on the South Side will directly change the care we’ll be able to provide when our team is deployed.”
An ‘ideal’ training environment
UChicago Medicine’s comprehensive trauma program cared for about 4,400 adult and pediatric patients in 2020, a 47% increase from the previous year. The majority of those patients—about 3,800—were cared for in the adult trauma center, which will mark its three-year anniversary May 1. About 57% of the adult trauma patients had blunt trauma injuries from incidents such as car accidents and falls. An additional 41% had penetrating trauma wounds, often from shootings or stabbings, and 2% had other types of injuries, such as burns. A case mix that includes everything from intentional violence to farm accidents makes UChicago Medicine an ideal training facility to ensure Army teams keep their skills fresh in a number of areas.
Prof. Kenneth L. Wilson, medical director of UChicago Medicine’s trauma center, is also a military surgeon in the U.S. Army Reserves and was a driving force behind the new Army-UChicago Medicine partnership. After multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as his previous work at major U.S. trauma centers, Wilson recognizes the importance of this type of trauma training.
“When you’re on a military installation as a member of a medical team, you’re not doing a lot of trauma care every day,” Wilson said. “Military hospitals mainly provide health care services to a young healthy population, so there are rarely the types of injuries you’d see in a busy civilian trauma center that regularly treats people who’ve been in high-speed crashes or drive-by shootings. So, it can be a steep learning curve to go from that kind of environment to someplace like Syria.
“Hospitals like UChicago Medicine provide an ideal middle ground that lets the team train together, build their trauma ‘muscle memory’ and keep their skills fresh. So, they’ll be able to take the skills they learned here, get on a plane for deployment and immediately be able to save lives out there.”
—This story was first published by UChicago Medicine.