In the 1950’s and 1960’s, a trip to the emergency room meant just that – a trip, usually via a hearse or dedicated station wagon, to a single room housed within a hospital. ERs were equipped inadequately and often times they were staffed with nurses or interns. If you were fortunate, you might be met by a physician who was taking his turn in the ER as part of his commitment to community service.
The actual beginnings of the specialty of emergency medicine emerged with the realization that lessons learned in the Korean and Viet Nam conflicts could be applied in local communities. Techniques and procedures that were developed for the battlefield could also save thousands of American lives every year. During this time period it also became apparent that emergency care required uniquely different skills and training from general medical practices. As this awareness grew across the nation it also grew in Kansas.
In Wichita, Kansas a group of local physicians began to experiment with staffing patterns, certain specialties from the medical staff, and 24-hour coverage for the emergency room. This group of physicians, who believed a higher level of patient care was possible in the ER, formed a corporation and started Emergency Services, Professional Association (ESPA). In 1967 they approached Wesley Medical Center with a plan to have physicians staff the ER who were dedicated to improving their knowledge of emergency care while still practicing family practice, surgery, and pediatrics in their own offices. Wesley readily recognized this would provide a higher level of service to their patients and agreed to enter into a contract with ESPA. Within five years it became clear that the plan was working and the quality of care provided was greatly improved, but it became more and more difficult to find physicians willing to work in the ER during the day when they needed to be in their offices. As a result, in 1973 ESPA hired the first full-time emergency medicine physician in the state of Kansas. Dr. Daniel Caliendo, originally a Kansas native, was recruited from Montana because he had emergency medical experience in Viet Nam.
ESPA and Wichita were ahead of their time in advancing the specialty of emergency medicine. In the fall of 1979 emergency medicine was formally recognized as the 23rd medical specialty. In 1980 the first board-certified emergency physicians in history received their credentials. Technology has been key in transforming emergency medicine into a fast-growing specialty. Emergency Departments are well-placed for utilizing CTs, MRIs, sonograms, and many other technological advances in order to determine diagnoses rapidly. Now emergency medical specialty training is offered through emergency medicine residencies located at prominent medical schools throughout the nation and emergency medicine is the 3rd most popular specialty selected by medical school graduates.
ESPA now employs 21 board-certified physicians who specialize in emergency medicine and an additional 18 physician assistants and advanced nurse practitioners who have experience in the emergency department working with our physicians.