3 Black trauma surgeons moved to Chicago to make a difference

They are on the front lines to Chicago’s gun violence epidemic, and they signed up for it — three trauma surgeons moved here on a mission to make a difference.

In a FOX 32 Special Report, they spoke with our Tia Ewing about saving lives beyond the emergency room.

When you look at the shooting victims in Chicago, a vast majority of them — according to Chicago police logs — are rushed to the University of Chicago Medical Center’s Trauma Center for treatment.

When patients in crisis arrive there, they are greeted by three trauma surgeons on staff — an anomaly in their field.

"Usually you will see one African American surgeon in a section, in a department. It’s pretty rare that there are four of us in a section," said Dr. David Hampton.

Hampton believes in the slogan "be the change that you want to see." That’s why he moved to Chicago with his wife in September 2017 to help start up the Trauma Center.

At that time, it was predicted that 2,500 to 3,000 people would come through the doors. But tragically, statistics show numbers that far exceed that.

"We are averaging 5,000 trauma patients just this past year. We don’t think that’s slowing down," said Dr. Selwyn Rogers Jr., Director of the U of C Trauma Center.


Forty percent of the injuries are penetrating traumas from a gunshot wound or stab wound. Majority are males between the ages of 18 and 28.

"The rewarding part is you’ve giving a family a loved one back," said Dr. Ken Wilson.

During the Trauma Center’s busy times, they can see 20 trauma patients a day. Depending on the time of year, they can be even busier.

"The sun is in the sky longer, unfortunately, here’s more opportunity for people to be victims of trauma. More operations, more operations in the middle of the night," Wilson said.

Dr. Wilson is a professor of surgery and trauma director from Baltimore.

"My family and I came to Chicago. We wanted to live in the city of Chicago," Wilson said.

But the harsh realities of the city and having a teen son forced Wilson, his wife and children to make some tough decisions.

"I have a 16-year-old son, and sometimes things happen to 16-year-olds who aren’t involved and aren’t associated with Chicago, and it was safer for us to step away, and that was a sad moment because I am from a community like this," Wilson said.

A community that has been plagued with violence, where already over 1,300 people have been shot this year. The vast majority are male.

"I usually think what could have changed for this young man," Rogers Jr. said.

Rogers Jr. is credited with being the founder and director of the U of C Trauma Center. He has testified before Congress on the toll guns are taking on Chicago.

"Three months later, a patient comes in shot multiple times now in the chest and in the head and dies," Rogers Jr. said. "We realized he was a patient here before and he still had staples from when we operated on him. The fact that we had done all of that work to save his life the first time and despite all of that work the second time he still died. That haunts me the most."

He is also a father of three young men. They are the same age group as many of the people that are cared for at the Trauma Center.

"I see every day when I take care of a trauma patient that is a victim of gun violence, I see my son. And I think about these kids, these young men didn’t have the same opportunities that my sons have. I wish they had better opportunities, then they would have different options so they could make better decisions and make different choices," Rogers Jr. said.

The trauma surgeons see it all at the University of Chicago, but that is why all three came here --- to make a difference in the lives of those who at any moment can find themselves in a helpless situation.

"What we’ve shown is we aren’t going to just treat you. We are going to take care of you. And treat you with humanity," Dr. Wilson said.

Dr.  Brian Williams is the fourth African American trauma surgeon on staff at U of C. He was not able to be interviewed for our story as he is currently away on a fellowship.