New advisory council seals U. of C. Medicine, community pact

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University of Chicago Medicine broke ground on its new emergency room/adult trauma center in September. | Provided rendering

University of Chicago Medicine has named its new Community Advisory Council, which was part of an agreement bringing a trauma center to the South Side, and some folks on the council were some of its harshest critics.

What seemed to be a mundane piece of the process, which resulted in the hospital system’s $269 million expansion and long-awaited new E.R. with adult trauma care, was far from it for the grassroots community.

About 118 people applied for 15 promised council seats, leading the U. of C. to increase to 20 the community representatives who will advise the medical center on South Side health care priorities: violence, cancer, STD’s, diabetes, asthma and obesity.

Two of the most vocal critics in the five-year battle by activists for an adult trauma center are on the council: Alex Goldenberg, executive director of the millennial group Southside Together Organizing for Power; and the Rev. Julian DeShazier, pastor of University Church of Chicago, who will serve as chair.

Torrey Barrett | Provided photo

Torrey Barrett | Provided photo

Others included are vocal activists like J. Brian Malone, executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization; Sherida Morrison, founder of the Far South Side’s Demoiselle 2 Femme; and Torrey Barrett, founder of the K.L.E.O. Center in Washington Park.

“A lot of people have fought for a really long time to make sure there is a trauma center on the South Side of the city, and I just want to make sure that the community has a voice, and that voice is listened to, and that action is a part of it,” said Barrett, 42, of South Shore.

Mainstream organizations are represented, including Chicago Urban League CEO Shari Runner; Gary Comer Youth Center Director Ayoka Mota Samuels; and LeVon Stone, program director of CeaseFire Chicago. And clergy on the council include pastors Christopher Harris of Bright Star Church and Richard Tolliver of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church.

The health and government sectors are represented by folks like Salim Al Nurridin, CEO of the Healthcare Consortium of Illinois; Jennifer Herd, senior health policy analyst at the city Department of Public Health; and Damon Arnold, a medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois.

“We have so many issues going on now in Chicago, with gun violence, lack of access to care, etc., and this is an incredible academic institution really pushing an urban health initiative looking at deeper community engagement, which I really, really love,” said Arnold, who headed the state Department of Public Health from 2007-2011. “It’s time for us to take a step forward in rebuilding communities and lives.”

Candace Henley | Provided photo

Candace Henley | Provided photo

Candace Henley, named vice chair of the council, agreed with Damon. The cancer survivor founded the Blue Hat Foundation Inc. to help other cancer patients.

“I’m a 13-year colon cancer survivor, and I became homeless fighting cancer as a result of not being prepared, not having services, not even being aware of the challenges of the disease,” she said. “I realized this was not just a me problem, it was a we problem. Being on the board is a vehicle to help others like myself battling cancer and the other chronic diseases disproportionately plaguing the South Side community.”

Expected to begin meeting later this fall, the council will be charged with developing strategies to address adult health, maternal and child health, trauma care and violence prevention challenges.

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