Joining the fight to prevent traumatic injuries




Riley’s new injury prevention coordinator joins a team of professionals who staff the state’s only Level 1 pediatric trauma center verified by the American College of Surgeons.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist,

As Indiana’s only Level 1 pediatric trauma center (verified by the American College of Surgeons since 1993), Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health is equipped to treat the most severely injured pediatric patients.

And as the new injury prevention coordinator at Riley, Crystal O’Donnell is one of the people leading the charge to make Indiana a healthier, safer state for our children.

O’Donnell, who joined the Riley team April 5, brings a wealth of public health experience, most recently with the Marion County Health Department, to her role at Riley.

“I’ve been in public health for about 10 years and I’ve focused on maternal and child health,” she said. “For the last four years, I’ve been doing fetal and infant mortality review and all of the things that come with that. This gives me a chance to focus more on prevention to make a difference.”

Today (May 12) marks Injury Prevention Professionals Day, designated by the American Trauma Society to recognize those who play a vital role in the advancement of injury prevention and serve as key members of the trauma team. In addition, May is Trauma Awareness Month.

Riley offers 24/7 in-house trauma care provided by pediatric fellowship-trained surgeons, anesthesiologists, radiologists, emergency medicine physicians and critical-care physicians. All surgical neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons also are board-certified in pediatrics.

While the concept of trauma might conjure up images of an ambulance rushing to the hospital, there is another important aspect that ideally plays out before an injury occurs. That’s where the injury prevention coordinator role is key.

“A very important part of trauma education is helping to make families and communities safer, hopefully so they never need our acute care services,” said Dawn Daniels, trauma program manager at Riley.

In fact, it is such an important role that the American College of Surgeons mandates that injury prevention should play a pivotal role in the trauma program, she added.

As injury prevention coordinator, O’Donnell will continue the work that Riley has long been known for: partnering with community groups to assist new parents with injury prevention information (safe sleep, car seat safety), as well as child passenger safety/community car seat clinics, a focus on decreasing pedestrian injuries and injury prevention in schools.

Riley is one of a select few children’s hospitals in the country verified as a Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons. An onsite review every three years verifies the department's quality.

O’Donnell, who has a bachelor’s in nursing and a master’s in public health, is working toward a doctorate focused on advanced public health nursing.

Her biggest goal in the first several weeks is to listen and learn, while also analyzing recent data for the kinds of traumatic injuries treated at Riley in an attempt to identify the root causes of injuries.

“I want the data to help guide the role,” she said, including understanding what evidence-based interventions are in place and the role community partners play in addressing injury prevention.

“The key is to work together to make change. I can’t wait to reach out to the community to dig into all of that,” she said.

And she is ready to get to work.

“I am truly excited to be here. I am the type of person who wants to make a difference and help people however possible. I want to try to remove any barriers that prevent them from living a healthy life,” she said.

“As an individual, I cannot do this alone. I need to work in collaboration with others in the community. With that being said, I would love to meet and hear from the community (individuals/organizations) on what they are seeing in regards to why childhood injuries are occurring and how can we work together to make a change.”

A native of Ohio, O’Donnell and her husband, Michael, have a 10-year-old daughter. They recently completed a major rehab of their previous home before moving to a new home, where she is focused on smaller reno projects, indulging her love of repurposing old items and woodworking.

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist,