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Trauma Care

As the lead hospital for the San Francisco Emergency Medical Services Trauma System, SFGH provides an important trauma center resource for more than 1.5 million residents of San Francisco and northern San Mateo County. Each year, the trauma team treats more than 3,000 severely injured patients whose bodies may be burned, blasted by gunfire, bruised by assault, or battered from work or vehicle-related accidents.

In fact, SFGH operates the city’s only level I trauma center – an important destination and designation, for it is the only place equipped with specialized imaging and other instruments and staffed with experts trained and available around the clock to treat the most critically injured patients. The level I accreditation requires SFGH to meet specific standards of care, including availability of anesthesiologists, surgeons and nurses specializing in trauma care; other specialists such as cardiac, orthopedic, oral, hand, spine and neurological surgeons; and radiology and respiratory therapists. The designation also requires SFGH to conduct clinical research to advance the care of patients with life-threatening injuries.

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is among the most famous patients to be treated by the trauma experts at SFGH. As the story goes, Kahlo valued the patient-centered care she received at SFGH. In appreciation, she painted a portrait in tribute to her doctor. That painting – and one of women making tortillas, done by her famous husband, Mexican artist Diego Rivera – now is on exhibit in the lobby at SFGH. Kahlo symbolizes the multicultural community that has depended on the hospital for more than a century.

Like Kahlo, more than half of all trauma patients who arrive at SFGH have one or more fractures. In fact, an unrelenting demand for orthopedic surgeons and other specialists has put an extraordinary amount of pressure on SFGH to recruit and retain the best in their fields. And while attracting them to the academic medical center for training and research is easy, keeping them employed on staff is more difficult.