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Local Talent: Ready for Anything

Apr. 30, 2012
UMMC’s director of emergency services Jonathan Wilson has spent countless hours on the floor of the emergency room, making sure Mississippi's Trauma Center can tackle any problem while providing world-class care. / Photo Submitted

Inside Mississippi’s only Level 1 Trauma Center, there is a man who has spent an entire career preparing himself for anything. Jonathan Wilson, director of emergency services at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, understands that the key to a successful emergency room environment is being ready for the unexpected.

“Everyone knows that the biggest challenge in any emergency department is not knowing what will come through the doors next," Wilson says. "Our teams have to be educated and trained to provide care for any patient with any condition at any time. There are a lot of variables and scenarios to be ready for, especially since we are the state's trauma center and academic health center."

The University of Mississippi Medical Center occupies a unique niche in the state's hospital system as a Level 1 Trauma Center. The emergency department receives critically ill and injured patients from all over the state, and these patients often require the services of one or more specialty teams that are centered at UMMC. Jonathan Wilson is there to make sure that from the moment a patient in serious condition enters the hospital, until the moment they leave, they are provided with the emergency services that only UMMC can provide to Mississippi residents.

"To me, our all-encompassing team approach is what makes our environment unique. It's not just our renowned physicians, compassionate nurses, highly-trained technicians or any other individual who makes or breaks our emergency department—it’s how everyone works together, in concert, to bring their specific talents together for the good of the patient."

Wilson has had plenty of time to see exactly how each moving part of the emergency department functions. He's been with UMCC for nearly 15 years, from the days when he worked part-time while finishing school to nights spent nursing in the emergency department to the multifaceted position he fills today.

Typically, Wilson’s day is spent in meetings, both on and off the UMMC campus. When not focusing on improving the quality of patient care with his UMMC coworkers, Wilson can be found meeting offsite with the Department of Health, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), Mississippi National Guard, the Hospital Association or any one of the other many groups with which UMMC works to improve emergency preparedness and disaster response.

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One of Wilson's projects is his continuing work with the Mississippi Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. This plan, coordinated by MEMA and earmarked personally by the governor, is a step-by-step rundown of how Mississippi will respond in the event of a natural disaster. While the Mississippi State Department of Health is the set "lead" for public health and medical care, UMMC's unique list of services means that if a disaster were to occur, UMMC would be there to work hand-in-hand with the Department of Health.

"Our state is incredibly fortunate to have a plan this well-designed," Wilson says. "We are proud to be able to help support the local and state disaster responders, if the need ever arises."

The time he spent on the coast in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina means that Wilson knows a thing or two about efficient and effective disaster response.

"I was part of a small team from UMMC that worked with the Mississippi State Department of Health to assess the storm's impact of our state's coastal hospitals," Wilson says when asked about his experience. "I was most impressed by the resilience of the various responders and care providers who continued to care for patients even when their own lives had been massively affected by the storm. To meet and work with people like that, people who did for others when they, themselves, were scrambling to put their lives back together, was amazing."

When he isn’t juggling a schedule full of professional commitments, Wilson has also found time to continue his education. Just last summer, Wilson added a master’s degree in nursing to an already impressive list of specialized certifications he has racked up since completing his bachelor’s degree. His master’s allows for a better understanding of the business side of health care, the dollars and cents that allow for the bandages and heart monitors. He hopes to begin work soon on his doctorate.

“Working in the emergency room environment is almost harder not to continue your education. We have such highly-esteemed and well-recognized schools here on our campus that the opportunity and convenience are hard to pass up,” Wilson says.

He is quick, however, to point out that not all of his training has come from time spent in the classroom setting.

"I'm still learning. I'll always be learning," he says. "My training continues everyday, but instead of burying myself in textbooks, I look to learn from my peers and mentors."

After having always lived in Puckett, Wilson, 35, made the move to downtown Jackson just over two years ago and couldn’t be happier with his choice.

“Being downtown puts me close to restaurants, museums and events. It’s safe, clean and surprisingly quiet."

Best of all, his move shortened Wilson's commute to an enviable seven minutes.

“I have incredibly high hopes for Jackson. We have great potential, and it will be interesting to see how we capitalize on our momentum in the coming years. We have seen many other metropolitan areas around the country successfully revitalized. I believe that soon we will be able to add Jackson to those ranks."