Celebrating 25 Years of Compassion, Dedication, and Leadership in Level 1 Trauma Care


North Memorial Health Hospital Celebrates 25 years as Level I Trauma Center

Since 1998, North Memorial Health Hospital has been a vital provider in the community as a level I trauma center – delivering unparalleled care to patients at the most critical moments. Working alongside teams from ambulance services and respiratory therapy to orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation, our comprehensive care model strives to give patients the best future possible.

And while trauma care may typically be associated with immediate response to a sometimes-life-threatening injury or accident, this team also provides care outside hospital walls with responsive community outreach and injury prevention – and has changed the way healthcare is delivered along the way.


This video features J. Kevin Croston, MD, CEO, North Memorial Health; Melanie Smalley, APRN, CNP, Manager of Acute Care Surgery; Jonathan Gipson, MD, FACS, Medical Director of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery; and Melanie Thorson, MS, APRN, CCNS, Director of Trauma, Acute Care/General Surgery.

Transcript: This program is 25 years better than it was when we started, and let me tell you, that’s a lot. From the time I started at North Memorial, I could tell that the trauma service and the trauma experience at North was a priority. When you become a part of a program, you’re not just impacting one person at a time, you’re impacting hundreds if not thousands of patients and giving them a chance at a better outcome. Trauma is the core identity of North Memorial Hospital. Everybody is needed and involved in that mission. What’s most important to the trauma team is collaboration, and it’s that collaborative team approach to things that just delivers outcomes that one person couldn’t do. We have hundreds of ambulances, nine helicopters, a huge footprint in the state, and the fact that we’re so closely integrated allows us a unique opportunity. Getting blood in the ambulances so that they can start that process sooner and being able to bring patients directly to the operating room if a surgery is what they need to save their life. We are really a community level one trauma center at its heart. Our providers, our team members, our nurses — everybody feels really tightly part of the trauma program. And what we try to do is look at our community and see where there’s opportunities to help. And so it’s making sure the car seats fit, making sure kids have bike helmets. This is a critical place for this town. I actually don’t think we’re anywhere close to as good as we’re going to be. I think the best years are coming. I think the innovations and the things that are going to come along are going to change things for us for the better. It’s really rare for a community level one trauma center to have residencies, research, and this high focus on good quality. Everybody is focused on giving the best care to our trauma patients, and I think it’s a remarkable place to work for that reason. I mean, it is in everything that we do. You know, we have 25 years of excellent clinical care and 25 years of progress, but the future is to always be innovating, to think what’s next, and can we get ahead of it.

“What’s most important to a trauma team is collaboration – and it’s that collaborative team approach to things that just delivers outcomes that one person couldn’t do,” says Dr. Kevin Croston, CEO of North Memorial Health.

Kirk's Story

Kirk was involved in a traumatic diving accident on Lake Minnetonka in 2015 and required critical care fast after breaking his neck. He was airlifted to North Memorial Health Hospital, where the level I trauma team’s expertise and coordinated response ensured Kirk received the acute care he needed while he and his wife, Melissa, navigated a new future alongside their newborn.

Dr. Hawes, a trauma surgeon at North Memorial Health, remembers meeting Kirk and Melissa the day he came in – and shares the impact their story has had on him as a doctor and as a father to this day.


This video features Kirk Ingram, a North Memorial Health trauma patient, his wife, Melissa, and Dr. Luke Hawes, a trauma surgeon at North Memorial Health Hospital.

Transcript: My name is Kirk Ingram, and this is my lovely wife Melissa. In August of 2015, I was in a diving accident on Lake Minnetonka, and I was airlifted to North Memorial, and so that is where our journey began. I’ve been around water my whole life, and I dove in the shallower water than I expected. I remember hitting the bottom and coming up and not being able to move. My head was face down. My buddy Tony was there, and I remember him coming to grab me. And I said, “Tony, don’t let go.” You get a phone call from the hospital, “we’re in route.” Nobody says anything on the phone until you get there in person and then I think they saw a newborn and were like, “Oh, I don’t want to tell her.” I think the first person to come out said, you know, he’s been in an accident and he broke his neck and he hasn’t moved any of his limbs, and I think I just took a deep breath and shut my eyes and thought, “Okay, what do we do next?” My name is Luke Hawes. I’m one of the trauma surgeons at North Memorial. Because North is a level one Trauma Center, it commits a lot of resources to excellence in trauma care, and that means that there are a lot of both surgical and other specialists that are available there that wouldn’t necessarily be available at another hospital. But the day I met Kirk was really my first real day as what you might call like the one ultimately responsible for the care of Kirk and the other patients in the ICU. So it’s kind of a big day for me. Kirk told me about his accident, what had happened. It slowly came up that Kirk and Melissa just had a baby. I asked about that a little bit more, and with time, we figured out that our babies had been born on the exact same day. I think the fact that we were both new fathers gave me some perspective. It was a new chapter in our lives with having a baby, and we were both very excited. And then to have the accident on top of that obviously completely changed it. A complete 180. Her birthday is July 18th, and then my accident was on August 1st. We were all kind of in survival mode. I had to take care of her, but I also needed to make sure that he was being taken care of. A trauma like that happens to the whole family. It’s not just the individual, you know. The nurses and doctors would check in and see how the rest of us were doing ultimately trying to make sure that Kirk got the best care he needed but also recognizing that the support network was important and we needed to be recognized. I remember conversations with both Melissa and their parents that were always at the bedside which was amazing to see. I just remember there being a lot of support, and it just really, really taught me how important it was to have the support of family, friends, and the community in your recovery. My ultimate goal is still to hold my daughter, which has been from day one, is holding both my daughters. I’ve always been driven by that. I think it’s very important because I want to be able to do it on my own. My own strength. If we could give the team at North Memorial a message it would be just a heartfelt thank you. Having them help us through a very difficult time. But without their help, to navigate unknown waters, I don’t know where we would be today.