Barbara Young '78: Trauma care, restored

By Denise Erdahl Ploof

Pierce County’s most severely injured citizens no longer must be helicoptered to Seattle for emergency medical care. Last June, two Tacoma hospitals resumed providing adult trauma services after a five-year hiatus. Part of the credit for reinstating the critical community service goes to Barbara A. Young ’78.

Tacoma was without a designated Level II adult trauma care facility since 1995, when both Tacoma General Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center declined to apply for the classification. Competition between the two, uncertainty in the economic landscape of the health care industry and limited resources made the prospect unviable, they said. Since then, some of the county’s trauma patients have been treated at Madigan Army Medical Center, but most have been airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

In September 1997 Barbara Young was appointed by the Pierce County Executive to work with hospitals, surgeons, health plans and others to determine the feasibility of reinstating the service. After nearly three years, they achieved what they’d hoped for all along: reinstatement of adult trauma care in Pierce County. Tacoma General and St. Joseph now operate a joint Level II trauma center, daily rotating patients at each facility.

Trauma care is the complex emergency and follow-up care required for victims of car wrecks, stabbings, shootings and other serious mishaps. A major advantage of having a local service is that it keeps patients closer to home and makes a big difference, not only with arranging for local follow-up care, but for patients’ friends and family who previously had to drive to Seattle to visit them.

Young is now executive director of the Trauma Trust, a not-for-profit organization that oversees the trauma system. With the huge undertaking of reinstating a viable system behind her, Young says many are pleased with Tacoma’s "integrated trauma system" that includes a core team of surgeons and assistants with everyone accountable to one medical director and one trauma team.

Originally from Seattle, Young now lives in Gig Harbor. Her Puget Sound undergraduate degree was in urban studies, and she has been in health care for more than 20 years.