The University of Pittsburgh holds a special place in the history of emergency medical services.
Between 1967 and 1975, Pittsburgh hosted one of the country’s first professional ambulance services offering advanced care. Cofounded by the late Peter Safar, MD, Distinguished Professor of Resuscitation Medicine, and the Falk Foundation’s Phil Hallen, Freedom House Ambulance Service was staffed by African American emergency medicine technicians; they were among the nation’s first to be trained to a high standard.
Before the first Freedom House ambulances hit the streets of Pittsburgh, prehospital medical care was almost nonexistent. Police with no medical training might race a patient to the hospital with no special equipment or care, and many avoided certain neighborhoods altogether.
National standards for paramedics were born here, too. After a 1966 white paper decried the dismal survival rates for auto and other accidents in this country—trauma victims had a better chance on the battlefield—the nation began to standardize prehospital care. It was Safar and a critical care fellow-turned-faculty member, the late Nancy Caroline, who developed a curriculum for paramedics here in the 1970s. She also authored the nation’s first textbook for paramedics, which was published in 1979.
To celebrate National EMS Week, Pittwire brings you stories about the foundational work Pitt people have done in emergency medicine and in their communities.
The Rush to the Hospital
Emergency medicine is constantly evolving. Take a look through history and the contributions Pitt people have made over decades to progress patient care, treatments and equipment.
Freedom House 2.0
Like its predecessor, Freedom House 2.0 is leveraging expertise from the University of Pittsburgh to train first responders from economically disadvantaged communities, many of which have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Participants receive mentorship and financial support as well as state-approved emergency medical technician certification and community paramedic training.
COVID-19 Disrupted Their Spring Term. Then FEMA Called.
Junior Taylor Smith and Mike Riederer (A&S ’20) finished the spring term by assisting with COVID-19 emergency response in the New York City metro area. The two aspiring doctors met in an EMT class at Pitt.
Emergency Medicine Course Prepares First Responders to Think Fast and Slow
Taught by the School of Medicine’s Paul Paris, the undergraduate course aims to help students become more aware of the factors that impact their thinking in emergency medical situations.
Diagnosing Heart Attacks Before the Hospital
Diagnosing a heart attack can be difficult, especially for prehospital emergency personnel. A team led by nursing's Salah Al-Zaiti developed an artificial intelligence system based exclusively on EKG data from previous medical events that can help clinicians identify 37% more heart attacks during initial screening in real time.
Guidelines Aim to Combat Fatigue in Emergency, Shift Workers
Half of emergency medical services personnel get fewer than six hours of sleep per day, and half also report inadequate recovery time between shifts. Fatigue on the job is a serious safety issue for workers and patients alike, says Daniel Patterson, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Pitt. To combat this hazard, he and co-investigators created evidence-based guidelines for shift work administrators.