Today, the U.S. Navy and Cook County Health announced an expansion of their partnership to train Naval medical providers and support clinical care at John H. Stroger Jr., Hospital.

“I’m excited to build upon the great partnership Navy Medicine has formed with Cook County,” said Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham, US Navy Surgeon General. “The experiences our military doctors, nurses, and corpsmen receive here not only helps out the local Chicago community, it ensures we have an expertly-trained Naval medical force that can take care of our deployed Sailors and Marines. The stakes are high: On a Sailor’s or Marine’s worst day, we must be at our best.”

The Navy and Cook County Health first began their partnership in 2013 when Naval surgeons from Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago began coming to Stroger Hospital to train in trauma care. The first Navy corpsman trauma training program began at Stroger Hospital in 2014. In the years since, Navy officer and enlisted medical professionals have continued to do rotations through the hospital’s trauma unit.

“It is an honor to collaborate with the Navy and provide essential training to men and women in uniform,” said Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President. “These partnerships enrich both of our teams and improve our ability to serve those who rely on us.”

Under the expanded partnership, a Navy Expeditionary Resuscitative Surgical System (ERSS) team will work at Stroger Hospital on 3-year deployable orders.  The first 9-month rotation began the first week of October 2022. At the conclusion of the initial rotation, the ERSS team will participate in additional training at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute (NEMTI) and then be deployed.  After deployment, the ERSS team will return to Stroger to sustain their skills, continue to work as trauma team, and be ready for additional deployment when called upon until the conclusion of their orders.

“Navy Medicine and Readiness Training Command Great Lakes (NMRTC GL), the Navy command co-located at Lovell Federal Health Care Center, is charged with providing operational training and ensuring readiness of active-duty Navy Medicine personnel,” said Captain Chad McKenzie, Commanding Officer of NMRTC GL and Deputy Director of Lovell FHCC.

“With the expansion of this agreement, the John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County has reinforced their commitment and support of our mission and our troops. The partnership that has existed between Lovell FHCC, the Navy, and Cook County since 2013 has saved lives and benefitted all involved. Expanding on this partnership will save future lives on the battlefield. This expanded agreement will once again raise the benchmark for what Navy Medicine training should look like.”

Three ERSS teams are slated to rotate through Stroger Hospital on a phased plan (one team of 7 each year from 2022 to 2024. An ERSS team is comprised of a General Surgeon, an Emergency Medicine Physician, a Physician Assistant, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, a Critical Care or Emergency Room Nurse, a Respiratory Therapy Technician, and a Surgical Technician. In addition to the deployable ERSS team, a cadre of three embedded Navy and full-time staff, including a Trauma Surgeon, Perioperative Nurse, and Healthcare Administrator, will remain to sustain the partnership at Cook County Health, work together with the ERSS team, and sustain their individual skillsets. This represents the first Navy program that provides an entire ERSS team an extended opportunity to train together at the same civilian facility prior to deployment.

“The epidemic of gun violence has made our trauma team experts in their field,” said Israel Rocha, Cook County Health CEO. “It is a sad reality that the injuries we see in our trauma center are reflective of the injuries seen in combat, making it a prime training location for members of the military. This only underscores the need for us to collectively to address gun violence as a national public health crisis.”

The trauma unit at Stroger Hospital has more than 4,000 activations annually. Approximately 25 percent of those cases include penetrating trauma, most commonly gun or knife injuries.

“In decades past, many advancements in trauma care were made by the armed forces in wartime and then shared with civilian providers,” said Dr. Faran Bokhari, Chair of Trauma and Burn Services at Cook County Health. “In recent years, as US conflicts have decreased, civilian providers responding to gun violence and other injuries have become a resource for branches of the armed forces. By embedding Navy providers in our hospital, they can keep their skills sharp for deployment and we can benefit from their expertise and support.”

In addition to working in the trauma unit, the ERSS teams will be assigned to their respective clinical departments within Stroger Hospital to support clinical services across the facility and maximize the providers’ time and learning opportunities.