Despite the maverick nature of the early adapters to emergency medicine, most had a clear sense of the steps necessary to achieve acceptance into the house of medicine. From its inception, ACEP established an organizational goal of education, focused specifically on the emerging realities of the practice of emergency medicine. In contrast to their “outside the box” thinking, ACEP leadership was always attentive to the need for research in emergency medicine and related fields, knowing that this was a critical component of improving practice and guiding patient care.
In pursuit of that goal, the Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) was established by the ACEP Board of Directors on June 10, 1972. EMF’s sole function would be to fund emergency medicine research with the goal of educating the emerging specialty on best practices. ACEP’s Board would govern the activities of EMF until September 1977 when EMF adopted its own constitution and bylaws, allowing the foundation to stand on its own. At that time, the Board was expanded to include representation from the Emergency Department Nurses Association (EDNA) and the University Association for Emergency Medical Services (UA/EM).
Early on, EMF was almost singularly responsible for providing funds to individuals who identified themselves as “emergency physicians” and were beginning their careers. Because of that, EMF has played a pivotal role in the early work of some of the most significant researchers in the field of emergency medicine.
From 1972–1977, the EMF’s primary sources of income were from ACEP memorial contributions and the sales of PEER I. In 1977, a solicitation to the members of ACEP, EDNA, and UA/EM resulted in contributions of approximately $13,000.
By 1978, EMF had awarded six grants averaging approximately $4,000 each. In 1980, five awards were given totaling $22,560. Studies at the time were looking at new CPR techniques, developing criteria for cardiac drugs, and creating an EMS manual for agricultural emergencies.
In the early 1980s, a group of supporters formed the Research Associates in an effort to expand emergency medicine research; membership was open to anyone who contributed $100 or more to EMF.
In 1984, EMF reached a crossroads. Donations were being used primarily to offset costs for an annual fund raiser, leaving limited funding for research. At the time, EMF was governed by a joint board of representatives from ACEP, EDNA, UA/EM, and others. The ACEP Board boldly proposed that EMF be led by ACEP and governed by an ACEP-appointed Board. Further, ACEP promised to absorb all of EMF’s administrative costs, ensuring that 100 percent of donor dollars be directed to research. This singular change allowed EMF to flourish and achieve an exponential impact on the specialty.
In 1989, EMF partnered with ACEP to establish a Teaching Fellowship Program. Attendees received more than 100 hours of intensive continuing education as well as a comprehensive set of faculty development materials. Years later, this successful program continues to thrive today under ACEP’s sole direction.
In the fall of 1992, EMF produced the inaugural issue of Scope, a quarterly newsletter dedicated to the promotion of emergency medicine research and education. An article would confirm that, “Unlike other specialties which receive large amounts of federal funding, EMF is the only national organization funding research in emergency medicine.”
By 1992, EMF was funding 22 grantees, each invited to prepare poster exhibits at the EMF Showcase during the annual Scientific Assembly.
In 1995, EMF’s Board voted to approve the inclusion of health policy into the foundation’s mission and announced a two-year feasibility study to support the shift. Policy related awards continued through the years, and in 2013, EMF partnered with the Emergency Medicine Action Fund (EMAF) to award the first Health Policy Scholar. The physician selected was not only responsible for pursuing research goals, but also serving as a resource for both organizations as health policy questions would arise throughout the year. Since then, ACEP has awarded three one-year grants and two two-year Health Policy Scholar grants.
In 1997, long-time EMF donor David Wilcox, MD, created the Council Challenge, pledging to match the first $5 of each ACEP Councillor pledge. That year, $6,155 was raised. By 2017, the Council Challenges would raise just shy of $148,000.
Partners in Research
Throughout the years, EMF would pursue outside funds from foundations to study issues and bolster educational efforts. In 1981, W.W. Kellogg Foundation supported a two-year study on cost containment in the emergency department. In 2010, the Century Council (now the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility) funded a research study on the use of texting to reduce hazardous drinking by young adults. The National Football League supported the development of a concussion course in 2015. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is currently supporting efforts to address the range of social issues presenting in emergency departments.
EMF has also worked throughout its history to partner with like-minded organizations to conduct research. Early partners included the Emergency Nurses Foundation, the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association, and the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, all of whom continue to support co-funded research today.
Partnerships for EMF would also take place in the form of directed research funded by corporate entities with like-minded goals. Past sponsors include Vidacare (now Teleflex), Genentech, Bristol Myers Squibb, Pfizer, GE Healthcare, and more.
Building for the Future
In September 2012, EMF established the EMF Endowment Fund, a commitment to building a fund to support research into the future. ACEP generously agreed to match all unrestricted donations to EMF, up to $1 million. ACEP honored its commitment in June 2013, a year after EMF hit its fundraising goal.
By 2015, EMF awarded $1.6 million toward research grants designed to improve emergency care.
Throughout the years, studies have varied widely with investigators delving into a range of topics, including device and pharmaceutical use, patient care, and effective health policy.
ACEP started an annual Research Forum in 1994. Once a stand-alone event with few abstracts, the Research Forum was fully integrated into ACEP’s annual meeting in 2016. For years, EMF has co-sponsored this important event and continues its efforts to elevate this vital research gathering and the cutting-edge findings presented to the emergency medicine community.
Foundation support takes on many forms. Each year, emergency physicians pledge a gift of $1,972 in honor of EMF’s founding year. Families have sponsored specific research projects, and also include EMF in their estate plans, becoming esteemed members of the Wiegenstein Legacy Society and furthering the innovation of emergency medicine.
With its narrow focus on emergency medicine research and education, EMF has stayed the course, awarding more than $16 million in research grants to enhance the practice of emergency medicine and improve patient care. In recognition of ACEP’s 50th anniversary, EMF recently embarked on a $500,000 endowment campaign. With it, EMF’s leaders lay the groundwork to support research funding for the next 50 years of emergency medical practice.
Dr. Bock is on the EMF Board of Trustees. Dr. Celeste is chair of the EMF Board of Trustees. Ms. Nelson is EMF director of strategic partnerships.