New Center to Improve Emergency Response for Children Across Five Western States

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Leads More than 60 Health Care Providers and Government Agencies, Representing 13 Million Children

By Lorna Fernandes

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland is leading a consortium of more than 60 agencies across five states to establish a West Coast Center of Excellence in Pediatric Disaster Care, aimed at improving emergency pediatric disaster-response capabilities throughout the region.

Aerial view of the Benioff Oakland campus
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland will lead 60 agencies across five states to establish a West Coast Center of Excellence in Pediatric Disaster Care.

The consortium, known as the Western Regional Alliance for Pediatric Emergency Medicine (WRAP-EM), brings together trauma centers, pediatric medical centers, health care systems, government agencies and industry experts throughout California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and Washington.

The Oakland hospital is one of only two organizations nationwide selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a Center of Excellence, with each receiving $3 million for its project. University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital of Cleveland will lead a similar consortium in the Ohio region.

“This caliber of organizations and subject matter experts across state lines, jointly developing a cohesive disaster communications and response system, has never been done before,” said Michael R. Anderson, MD, president of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals and co-principal investigator (PI) for WRAP-EM. “As the only Level 1 pediatric trauma center in the area, we are already committed to excellence in pediatric emergency care. As part of WRAP-EM, we will expand our support by developing a coordinated, collaborative and sustainable regional disaster response plan that will match resources to pediatric needs during a mass casualty event.” 

Both regional projects will examine pediatric disaster care needs, address weaknesses in emergency communication or access, and uncover unknown challenges that could be detrimental in a crisis. 

“The pediatric-specific needs from a disaster can challenge a medical center and a community in an unimaginable, profound and frightening way,” said Chris Newton, MD, director of trauma care at Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and WRAP-EM co-PI. “Disaster-related medical needs include treating trauma, infections, burns, exposures, violence and even mental health. We are committed to answering that challenge, supporting those communities and providing real access to expertise when it is most needed.”

The WRAP-EM consortium will execute the yearlong project in two phases. The first phase will include a comprehensive review of available resources, development of a pediatric emergency resource library, and an assessment of the group’s existing ability to respond in an emergency.

The second phase will focus on delivering products with a measurable impact, such as publishing a guide to regional pediatric disaster response expertise, developing telemedicine interconnections across the region, and implementing patient tracking, reunification and information-sharing practices to address interstate operational challenges.

“These pilot projects will serve as the proving ground and identify gaps in resources and services that are vital to the continuity of pediatric health care delivery,” said Robert Kadlec, MD, assistant secretary for HHS Preparedness and Response. “We hope these projects will define the delivery of pediatric clinical care when existing systems become stressed or overwhelmed.”

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals are among the nation’s finest pediatric medical centers, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings. Their expertise covers virtually all pediatric conditions, including cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders, pulmonology, diabetes and endocrinology, as well as the care of critically ill newborns, in the Bay Area, California and beyond. The UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals are known worldwide for basic and clinical research and are at the forefront of translating research into interventions for treating and preventing pediatric disease. The Oakland campus is one of only two Pediatric Level I Trauma Centers in the Bay Area, as designated by the American College of Surgeons. The hospitals are affiliated with UC San Francisco, whose schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Nursing are among the nation’s leaders in graduate-level health science education, as well as research grants from the National Institutes of Health.