College of Medicine Establishes New Department of Emergency Medicine

George Humphrey
Feb. 27, 2001

In recognition of the growing need for emergency medicine specialists in the United States, the Arizona Board of Regents recently has approved a new academic Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. The new department was formed from the Section of Emergency Medicine of the Department of Surgery at the UA College of Medicine.

The new Department of Emergency Medicine will be responsible for educational programs in emergency medicine as well as for strengthening the professional collaboration necessary for research and for high-quality clinical services in emergency care. Harvey Meislin, who was chief of the Section of Emergency Medicine, will serve as interim head of the new department. Dr. Meislin also is director of the Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center (AEMRC), a Center of Excellence at the UA College of Medicine, and associate head of surgery.

"With more than 100 million emergency department visits annually in this country, the demand for quality emergency medicine specialists is immense," says James Dalen, vice president for health sciences and dean of the UA College of Medicine. "There currently are about 16,000 board-certified emergency physicians in the U.S., but the proposed need is double that number and projections indicate there will be a deficit well into this decade. With our already high standards for emergency care education, the new Department of Emergency Medicine will help address that need."

Emergency medicine's unique status in U.S. medical schools has increasingly been recognized over the last two decades. Approximately 70 percent of all medical schools -- and more than 80 percent of the medical schools that rank in the top 50th percentile -- have academic departments of emergency medicine. There are more than 120 emergency medicine residency programs in the U.S. and emergency medicine has become a very popular career choice for graduating medical students. Seven to 10 percent of graduating UA medical students choose careers in this specialty each year.

Academic emergency medicine at the UA College of Medicine has experienced immense growth in the two decades since the Section of Emergency Medicine was formed in 1980. At that time, there were four full-time faculty and few research and educational opportunities.

Today, the emergency medicine faculty includes a professor emeritus, five tenured full professors, one tenured associate professor, one tenure-eligible associate professor, seven full-time clinical faculty, two part-time clinical faculty and a medical toxicology fellow. The new department initially plans to recruit two additional clinical faculty.

Emergency medicine faculty and residents provide the entire physician staffing for University Medical Center's Emergency Department and Urgent Care, which see more than 60,000 patient visits per year, compared to approximately 20,000 patient visits in 1980. UMC is a Level 1 trauma center and conducts extensive programs in physician, nurse and paramedic education.

The emergency medicine faculty's accomplishments at the local, national and international levels rank among the best in the country. More than 1,000 peer-reviewed articles have appeared in nearly every major emergency medicine textbook and journal.

Faculty also conducts continuing medical education courses for physicians, nurses and prehospital personnel, as well as workshops and conferences on a variety of prehospital and emergency medical services topics. Postgraduate continuing education includes the Advanced HAZMAT Life Support Program and educational conferences for medical students and residents. Educational programs include a fully accredited residency program, house officer rotations for residents in other disciplines, third- and fourth-year medical student rotations, fellowships in medical toxicology and emergency medical services, and a fully credentialed paramedic training program.

The UA College of Medicine emergency medicine residency program, which began in 1982, consistently has ranked among the top 10 programs in the country. The three-year program receives more than 800 applications for the 10 positions available each year. Fellowships exist in medical toxicology and emergency medical services, and a fellowship in sports medicine is projected to begin this year.

The Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center (AEMRC), recognized by the Arizona Board of Regents in October 1990, is one of eight outstanding emergency medicine research entities in the country. AEMRC research has developed extensive epidemiological, injury prevention and clinical research studies generating millions of dollars of grant funding. The training division has trained more than 120 paramedics in the past decade and is the outstanding pre-hospital training site in Southern Arizona. (Nearly 80 percent of Tucson Fire Department paramedics have been trained through the AEMRC.) The Advanced HAZMAT Life Support course, a continuing education program focused on the medical management of patients exposed to hazardous materials incidence, is the only such training program in the U.S. The EMS Fellowship Program is one of only 15 in the country.




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