I would like to say congratulations on our 50th birthday. I have not been an ACEP member for all of that time, but I have been a member for some 38 years. While by far not the first, I am among that early generation of physicians who trained specifically in emergency medicine and whose career has been entirely within our specialty. Certainly, congratulations are in order for an organization that is a half century old. Who would have thought in those early days we would make it this far? The overriding issue facing emergency medicine was just to establish the specialty. My aim with this letter is to thank ACEP for all it has done, not just for the specialty of emergency medicine but for me personally.
Back in the early 1980s, as an emergency medicine resident on the East Coast, I was struck by the distinctly neophyte position of our specialty. Being from Michigan, the land of Krome, Tintinalli, Bock, Wiegenstein, and Rupke, where emergency medicine was more established, I found it disconcerting that as an EM resident I was constantly having to explain who I was and that I did plan on working in an “ER” my entire career. Hardly a shift went past where I was not explaining to a patient, another resident, an off-service attending, or a hospital administrator that emergency medicine was a bona fide specialty and that the care rendered in the emergency department was going to improve and grow as the result of residency-trained emergency physicians. That need to explain what emergency medicine was continued as I graduated to the role of an attending physician.
ACEP’s major task at that time was to define the specialty. By going to meetings on a national and state level, I learned to articulate that message. I was also better able to apply those lessons in the various battles being fought on the hospital, local, state, and national levels. Our measure of success is that it has been a long time since I have had such a “justify emergency medicine” conversation. We have gone from being absent on the academic side of medicine to where our presence in academia and medical schools is now well-established. We are now one of the most highly sought-after specialties by graduating medical students.
First, let me say thanks to the dogged persistence of this national organization and my own state chapter for never giving up, never losing sight of the big picture, and for establishing emergency medicine as a leading voice for what is now an accepted part of the house of medicine. We just had an emergency physician as president of the American Medical Association, something unthinkable back in the beginning of my career.