Cataldo Corrado Jr., MD, FACEP, was the youngest of eight children. Named after his father, a family physician in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and affectionately dubbed “Little Doc” by his family and friends, the younger Dr. Corrado was drawn to medicine from the start.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 39 – No 03 – March 2020
He started his medical education in the early 1960s before being drafted into the U.S. Army for two years right before the Vietnam War. He got his first glimpse at what life might be like in emergency medicine when he was assigned to the medical clinic on the base, part of a team of medical personnel who served in all capacities for the community, treating the service men and women along with their families, young and old. The clinic was the only medical facility on the base; there was no emergency department. “If anybody had an emergency, we had to take care of it right there in our clinic,” Dr. Corrado remembers.
When he returned from his military service, he finished his internship and accepted the first emergency position at Pittsburgh Hospital in Pennsylvania. A year later, he decided to do a residency in orthopedics at West Virginia University Medical Center in Morgantown. But life intervened: Dr. Corrado’s mother passed away about six months into his orthopedics residency, and he took an emergency medicine job back in his hometown to be closer to his father.
He intended it to be a temporary stop. Instead, it became a legendary 53-year run that saw Dr. Corrado create a rural emergency department that handles 50,000 patients per year while also developing a local EMS system to serve Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
He finally “hung up his cleats” in September 2019 at age 82, feeling wholly content with what he jokes is the “shortest résumé in the world.” A few months after his retirement, he took time to reflect on his impactful career and what he learned along the way.
JG: When you were trying to decide between orthopedics and emergency medicine, what do you think ultimately compelled you toward emergency medicine?
CC: I think it was the variety. Orthopedics can be pretty much the same thing. Emergency medicine has some sameness to it also, but it certainly has a lot of variety. And then in the early 1970s, that’s when emergency medicine was really starting to become very challenging and we were doing a lot more. It was much different than the other specialties because it involved all of them.
JG: What has it been like to watch the evolution of the profession into what it is today?
CC: I remember when we first started in emergency medicine, we were nothing but a triage. Did the patient need to be admitted or not, and that was the only decision you made. But now, we do major work-ups in the emergency department, we do major interventions in the emergency department, and, of course, I came in up an era where there were no CAT scans, no ultrasound, no MRIs. It was pretty primitive. It has been really remarkable the progress we’ve made in all of medicine but mostly in emergency medicine. I think we’ve made more progress than any other specialty.