As someone who was academically oriented and had seven years of residency training, Dr. Podgorny linked with the early ACEP leaders and began to push for formation and approval of a specialty board in emergency medicine. His background and connections in the surgical world helped to lend some credibility, and allowed him to battle the opposition that came from surgical fields. He came across as a unique individual, sporting a handlebar mustache, with an exotic sounding accent and an eloquent but raspy voice. People paid attention.
One of his most important roles came at the “Workshop Conference on Education of the Physician in Emergency Medicine” in Chicago in 1973. He was an important, persuasive figure in a comprehensive gathering of medical leaders from government, the other medical specialties, and academia. The fate of the specialty hinged on the early leaders convincing others that the field was credible and that residency training and specialists in emergency medicine were just as important as in other medical fields. The outcome was favorable and Podgorny and other early leaders in emergency medicine then made a concerted push, against considerable odds, to get ABEM established over the next 6 years. He was a key negotiator in the process, particularly in the final compromise that allowed ABEM to be approved in 1979.
Dr. Podgorny continued to practice emergency medicine for many years in Greensboro, N.C., after his direct leadership in ACEP and ABEM ended. However, he was a constant presence at the annual Scientific Assembly and offered advice and counsel to the new leaders in emergency medicine. On a personal level, George loved his Persian heritage, and his home was lavishly decorated with Persian art and furniture. He was a widely read intellectual, and an astute scholar of the history of medicine. He also loved his adopted home state of North Carolina, and was a regular at the local barbeque restaurants.
Dr. Podgorny is one a handful of people who can be considered to have been truly essential to the formation of emergency medicine. Without his forceful, scholarly, and gracious diplomacy, some of the early deliberations of the future of the specialty could have gone the other way. His loss leaves us greatly saddened, but we can warmly reflect on how his determination, skill in negotiation, and perseverance made emergency medicine become a reality in the U.S. This is his tremendous legacy. We are grateful to have had the pleasure of seeing and hearing this senior icon of emergency medicine one last time at the ACEP Scientific Assembly 2013.