Trauma Survivors Reunited with UPMC Williamsport Heroes

By: Tyler Wagner

When a trauma victim enters the hospital after a life-altering event, his or her future can be uncertain. Car crashes, biking accidents and head injuries are just a few of the scenarios that can place a person’s life in jeopardy.  

Three years into its Level II Trauma Center designation, UPMC Williamsport celebrated a new milestone by hosting its first Trauma Survivors’ Reunion event on National Trauma Survivors Day on May 15. This special event reunited trauma survivors and their families with the medical teams that took care of them following the accidents that brought them to UPMC Williamsport. 

“Since receiving our Level II Trauma Center designation in 2021, our care teams have helped save thousands of lives,” said Ronen Elefant, M.D., trauma surgeon and medical director of trauma services, UPMC of North Central Pa. “On average, we’ve provided care to 1,300 individuals annually with a 98% survival rate, and while those are exceptional numbers when it comes to our clinical expertise, the real impact and value of this program is evident in our survivors. Getting to host events like this where we celebrate those who do the hardest work in any trauma program – the survivors and their support persons – helps us realize the value of every life saved. Seeing their faces, talking with them and observing their recovery reminds us of what our work is about and how even making an impact on one life makes it all worthwhile.” 

During the event, Dr. Elefant and other members of the trauma services team spoke of the importance of having a local trauma center and UPMC Williamsport’s almost decade-long journey to designation. One goal is at the center of all the work: celebrating individuals who, against the odds, have not just survived but are now thriving. 

“Years ago, regional leadership made the bold decision to build a trauma program, and our teams worked tirelessly to grow and develop the services we offer today,” said Patti Jackson-Gehris, president, UPMC in North Central Pa. and UPMC Williamsport. “At UPMC, we use the phrase ‘life changing medicine’ a lot and one would only need to look around the room at an event like this and see our survivors to understand what it truly means. Survivors have experienced life-altering events and come so far in their recovery which, to me, is life-changing medicine in action. I’m proud of what we’re doing here with our program to serve so many communities across north central Pennsylvania.” 

As a token of remembrance and encouragement for their journey, trauma survivors and their guests in attendance were presented with tulip bouquets and a stained-glass purple tulip handcrafted by trauma team members. 


A stained-glass purple tulip handcrafted by trauma team members.

“The Trauma Survivors Network, a program of the American Trauma Society, uses a red tulip as a symbol of the pain, suffering and lifestyle changes caused by traumatic injury, not only for the survivor, but also their families, friends and others that care about them,” said Amanda Raymond, manager of trauma services, UPMC in North Central Pa. “As a member of the Network, we wanted to use this symbol while also making it special for our event. At UPMC, everything is purple, so our team came up with the idea to create purple stained-glass tulips for our survivors.” 

While this was the first occasion for the team to celebrate survivors in the region, it won’t be the last. Almost immediately after the event was over, the trauma team started brainstorming ideas for the next year and years to come.  

UPMC Williamsport is one of just three trauma centers in the 12-county region of north central Pennsylvania.