On October 13, 2011, Dr. Fatima Wilder, a Newark, New Jersey native and surgery intern at University Hospital, sat in a hall waiting to testify on the value of the hospital to the Newark community. The panel who heard her testimony was the UMDNJ Advisory Committee, charged by the governor to evaluate the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey and graduate medical education in the state. The committee has the power to recommend mergers and closures of residency programs and medical facilities, and UMDNJ and its affiliate, University Hospital, are feeling the pressures of a state that wants to relieve itself of the financial burden of large safety-net hospital.
Dr. Wilder knows that the hospital, with its Level 1 trauma center, is essential for the community and provides excellent training from the cases she’s seen in the OR, but her connection to the institution runs much deeper. It was the hospital that saved her brother’s life after a near fatal shooting incident.
“I was 17 years old and in my senior year of high school. Around 10 pm, the police came to our front door and only my mother and I were home at the time,” Dr. Wilder remembered. “My oldest brother had been shot close to where we lived and he was taken to UMDNJ….It was definitely a shock, I was in disbelief and was pretty much in a daze for the days following. “I just remember that the attending staff definitely took the time to explain everything that was going on to my family and how they took care of not only my brother, but my family as well. They tried to make sure that we had whatever services we needed, like a chaplain or nursing care. And the nurses were very involved in making sure my brother was comfortable and getting what he needed.
“The shooting [left] him paralyzed but initially we just weren’t sure what his life expectancy would be because he suffered a pretty severe injury. I believe that due to the high volume and variety of patients that the hospital sees with different levels of shock and types of trauma, as well as the training being so good, the trauma team was well prepared to handle what my brother presented with.”
When it came to decide on a program for residency, UMDNJ simply made the most sense to her. “It wasn’t really too difficult a decision to make when deciding where to go for residency. I’m emotionally invested in the program and what they did for my family….Without UH, I don’t know where so many of the patients would get their care.”
And she testified to that fact in front of the UMDNJ Advisory committee. “I’m invested in the success of the hospital and in ensuring that the people of Newark get what I believe is best for them in terms of quality health care. As a first year intern, I am going to be here for the next five to seven years and want to be able to continue to serve the community that I came here to serve.”