A noteworthy event happened last June that you may have missed. For the first time ever, an Emergency Physician was elected as president of the American Medical Association . “So what?” you might ask. Well, not that long ago, Emergency Medicine was not a respected (or even respectable) medical specialty—in fact, it was not a specialty at all. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) was first established in 1968.
Before then Emergency Rooms were staffed by various members of the medical staff as part of their obligation to the hospital. There would be an orthopedist there one day, a pediatrician the next day and an anesthesiologist the next. If you worked in the ER full-time, other doctors and people in the community looked at you askance. They were thinking, “What’s wrong with you that you’re not working as a ‘real’ doctor, with a ‘real’ practice?”
That attitude persisted well after Emergency Medicine was finally officially recognized as a separate specialty in1979. I encountered it when began my residency in Emergency Medicine in the mid 1980s: “What’s wrong with you that you are training in Emergency Medicine? Couldn’t get into a good residency, eh?” Back then, ER docs were certainly not considered for leadership roles in professional societies, even the local ones, not to mention the AMA.
But the respectability of ER medicine has slowly risen over the years due to relentless hard work by ER physicians to convince the broader medical establishment that Emergency Medicine was legitimate and worthy of respect. The election of an Emergency Physician to the top medical leadership position in the country is the culmination of this effort. ER doctors have arrived! They finally get to sit at the big kids table!
Now it is Correctional Medicine’s turn to become “respectable.” Continue reading