What Is a Level I Trauma Center?

Q&A with Dr. Jeffrey Coughenour

Team of four trauma surgeons from MU Health Care
From left, MU Health Care surgeons Chris Nelson, Stephen Barnes, Jeffrey Coughenour and Salman Ahmad are part of the only Level I trauma center in mid-Missouri.

University Hospital is home to a Level I trauma center that treats about 1,500 patients each year. But what does Level I verification mean?

Jeffrey Coughenour, MD, an acute care surgeon at University Hospital, answers a few questions about what role MU Health Care’s Frank L. Mitchell Jr., MD, Trauma Center plays in caring for the mid-Missouri community.

For starters, what is a trauma center?

A trauma center offers all services necessary to care for the most seriously injured patients, from point of injury through rehabilitation. At MU Health Care, physicians, nurses, EMT/paramedics, social workers, therapists, pharmacists and others play a role in helping critically injured patients survive and attain a truly functional recovery.

What does Level I mean?

Levels are determined by state or national criteria and describe the level of service provided. A Level III trauma center has basic services, such as a physician in the emergency department 24 hours a day. A Level I trauma center is typically an academic medical center (or large private hospital) with comprehensive physician and support services necessary to provide care for any level of injury.

Are there any other Level I trauma centers in Missouri?

There are a total of 12 in the state, but only four are verified by the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The remaining centers are certified by the State of Missouri. MU Health Care is one of the ACS-verified centers and the only one in mid-Missouri.

What does a typical day look like for you and your team?

The team gathers at 8 a.m. each day to discuss plans of care for all new and existing patients. Throughout the day, we perform operative procedures, assess outpatients’ progress in clinics and maintain a state of constant readiness for new patients that arrive at our center.

What sets MU Health Care apart from other hospitals?

Our verification from the American College of Surgeons’ Committee on Trauma demonstrates our unwavering commitment to the highest standards of quality, patient-centered, outcome-focused trauma care.

Learn more about trauma care at MU Health Care