He assigned four University of Louisville medical students to be on hand at all times at Louisville City Hospital, now University of Louisville Hospital. Their mission was simple ─ provide instant medical treatment to accident victims.

The service ─ something that had not been available before ─ quickly was nicknamed “accident service.”

On Sept. 1, hospital leaders, employees and trauma survivors honored the trauma center with an event on its 100th anniversary ─ which makes it the nation’s oldest trauma center.

UofL has a long and proud tradition as one of the oldest and finest trauma centers in the country, said Kelly McMasters, chair of UofL’s Department of Surgery, noting that it is a trauma center that never turns a patient away and always provides them with the best care available.

“We’re proud and happy to do it,” McMasters said.

Since its inception, the trauma center has helped save countless lives and has been an innovator behind, or a forerunner in adopting, groundbreaking procedures.

“If anybody were going to list trauma centers in terms of contributions made over almost any period of time, I think we’d make the top five,” J. David Richardson, a University Hospital trauma surgeon, said prior to the event. “And it’s continued to be a very productive unit in terms of taking care of patients, one of the busiest in the country.”

The trauma center has received a Level I designation from the American College of Surgeons, the highest stamp of approval any U.S. emergency center can obtain.

“We were one of the four original ACS-designated trauma centers in the country, beginning more than 30 years ago and maintaining it since,” Richardson said. “This means we can take care of any kind of patient who comes in, to the extent humanly possible given the state of knowledge today. If you have a head injury, heart injury, broken bone, eyeball injury — whatever — we have the capability of managing it.”

Some of the highlights of the first 100 years include:

  • First accident service
  • Advance treatments for pelvic fractures, liver and spleen injuries
  • New protocols for treating penetrating heart wounds
  • New protocols for setting broken bones
  • Innovative standards for treating burn patients
  • City’s first blood bank
  • Pioneered preoperative antibiotics to minimize surgical infections
  • Fifth emergency residency program in the country

At the core of its mission, the trauma center saves lives.

“The trauma service at the University of Louisville trauma center is the safety net for every family,” said Hiram Polk, former chair of UoL’s surgery department and member of the trauma team.

The center’s staff helped the city’s residents recover from such natural disasters as the 1937 flood, 1974 super tornado, and recent ice storms.

The trauma center’s staff also aided patients in such incidents as the Carrolton Bus crash of 1988 and victims of the Standard Gravure shooting of 1989.

Most patients aren’t the victims of such high-profile incidents and thus, don’t receive any media attention. But at University Hospital’s trauma center, they received the highest quality of care that they deserved, Richardson said.

“No one wants to be or expects to be a trauma patient,” said Ashton Lockhart at the event.

But that is what happened to him in 2009 when he was a victim of a hit and run accident.

“I was left to die,” Lockhart said at the celebration, adding that not only did the trauma center care for his severe injuries it also cared for his wife.

Lockhart and other trauma survivors said they are thankful for the service.

“I think it’s safe say we’re glad we live in Louisville where this level of service was available,” he said.