Dr. Elias Trace takes on emergency medicine in Jacksonville
By Julie Gerke
A fifth-generation physician will become medical director and EMS director of the Jacksonville Memorial Hospital emergency department as of July 1.
Dr. Elias “Bubba” Trace, the emergency department’s current assistant medical director, will succeed current director, Dr. Charles “Dusty” Reeve. Both men are part of Mid-America Emergency Physicians, a Springfield company that provides emergency department leadership at hospitals in Springfield, Jacksonville, Decatur, Lincoln and Taylorville.
Trace is a Jacksonville native who was born at what then was Passavant Area Memorial Hospital. His father, Dr. Peter Trace, was an ob-gyn physician in Jacksonville; his grandfather, a cardio-thoracic physician; and great- and great-great-grandfathers, both internists.
The younger Trace, nicknamed Bubba as a child, joined Mid-America after finishing his residency.
“Once I made the decision to be a physician, emergency medicine was at the top of the list. … I like fast interactions, putting together a diagnostic puzzle based on limited data and time. The challenge is there [in emergency medicine],” he said.
Bubba and wife Sherie already had faced a number of challenges and changes since the high school sweethearts (Jacksonville High School classes of 2005 and 2006, respectively) followed a winding road to end up back in Jacksonville, which they consider “the greatest small town in the Midwest.”
Married 14 years this year, they are parents to Edison, 8, and 7-year-old fraternal twins Max and Henry. The household includes two new kittens and a turtle, and probably will expand again with a dog.
Sherie Trace, daughter of Don and Lois Kording of Jacksonville, majored in deaf education at Illinois State University while Bubba received a full scholarship to follow his dream of a music degree at Millikin.
“Music is a big passion of his,” she said. “He has a guitar in his hand whenever he has any free moments.”
Sherie taught for 10 years at the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD), mainly working in a high school program that helps students transition to the work world. After Bubba spent a year or so as a music producer and then another stint as a real estate agent with Grojean Agency, he decided he wanted to become a doctor.
During his original undergrad work at Millikin, Sherie Trace said, Bubba took “not one lick of science of math,” so he had to start over to meet pre-requisites for med school admission.
“He just did it himself,” she said. “You can give that man any task and he’s gonna do it and do it well.”
Four years of medical school on only Sherie Trace’s salary came with moves to Carbondale, Springfield and then back to Jacksonville.
The couple learned of son Edison’s impending arrival just a month or so after Bubba Trace was accepted into medical school, which, for him, meant one year at the Carbondale campus of Southern Illinois University followed by three years at the SIU Springfield campus.
Edison was a few months old when Bubba Trace moved south, with Sherie Trace continuing to work at ISD. The expanded family moved to Springfield the next year, giving Bubba Trace easy access to the city’s two hospitals as he continued his schooling.
The twins were born five days before one of her husband’s biggest exams, according to Sherie Trace.“That created a whole other level of chaos,” she said.
Peter Trace, who died in 2019, lived long enough to see his son receive his medical degree. Konnie Trace, who remains in Jacksonville, is one of her son’s “biggest supporters,” Sherie Trace said.
Returning to Jacksonville with grandparents in immediate proximity was fortuitous for the couple, since “we knew we were going to need a whole village” with three youngsters, she admitted. Sherie Trace retired from ISD once her husband joined Mid-America.
Bubba Trace has been shadowing Reeve as he learns the job, which includes sitting on hospital committees, hiring and overseeing emergency room physicians and reviewing cases, among other duties. He will remain an active emergency physician for the majority of his schedule.
“I want people to be proud of the hospital,” Trace said. “It’s not just a punch-clock job for me. … Our biggest challenge right now is the labor shortage. It’s a pretty complex multi factorial affecting most hospitals in the country. We need to figure out how to match community needs with our resources.”
He said the department has “young, willing-to-learn nurses who are invested in the community and a lot of physicians who definitely enjoy working here,” explaining patient wait times reflect staff shortages as well as patient needs. Regardless, he added, “If people are concerned [about a symptom], I want people to feel welcome to be examined [in the emergency department] and see what’s going on.”
We appreciate their patience and are aware they are waiting, and once they’re in the ER, we will do everything [they need] to get proper care and their needs taken care of.”
The couple’s pride in their immediate and extended families, his work and their hometown is clear.
“Jacksonville has always been our home,” Sherie Trace said. “There no really was much of a question when we graduated where we wanted to go. The sky was really the limit [with] potential possibilities, but … there’s a magnet, a homing device … [Jacksonville] always felt right.”