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Emergency Medicine: Home

A Bit of History

Busy Emergency Room in the 1960's

In the early 60's, the number of medical specialists was rapidly rising, and the availability of more affordable general practitioners was declining. So those in need of immediate care relied more and more on ER visits. Unfortunately at that time, the medical expertise and a system for providing quality emergency care were sorely lacking. In a sense, public demand, more than science, fueled the formation of this new specialty.

But fortunately science soon met demand during the Vietnam War, which saw a drop in mortality rates from two previous war to below 2%. The reason? Battlefield evacuation to MASH units. After which, doctors and medics returned to civilian practice with a wealth of experience and a new sense of what they could accomplish, spurring widespread improvements in emergency medical services.

By the late 1960's, hundreds of "Emergency Physicians" were in practice across the U.S. In 1968, John Wiegenstein, MD, and other founders organized Emergency Physicians to form the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). Over the next decade, ACEP was the driving force in moving the field toward Board specialty status. The early leaders of the field who first left their practices to work full time in Emergency Departments recognized the need for training as it became apparent the only way to properly train Emergency Physicians was through a formal residency program. And, so the much needed discipline was born.

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