John Emory Campbell, MD, FACEP, founder and president of International Trauma Life Support, passed away in his home in Alabama on Aug. 29, 2018, after a long illness. He was 75 years old.
Known worldwide for his groundbreaking work in developing prehospital trauma education, Dr. Campbell founded the Basic Trauma Life Support (BTLS) program in 1982. It was the first course and curriculum dedicated to prehospital trauma assessment and trauma care worldwide.
Dr. Campbell, a graduate from medical school at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, conducted the first BTLS course at Southeast Alabama EMS System on Aug. 23, 1982. He wanted to teach paramedics the principles of advanced trauma life support (ATLS) to improve the care provided to trauma patients. He partnered with the Alabama Chapter of ACEP to publish the first BTLS textbook in 1982.
“John did not set out to be an EMS leader,” said ITLS Editor in Chief Roy Alson, PhD, MD, FACEP, who has served on the editorial board alongside Dr. Campbell for many years. “Thirty years ago, he took a new trauma course and said, ‘Why aren’t we teaching this to EMS?’ Along the way, he convinced countless doctors, nurses, EMS, fire, and police personnel to share his vision. The legacy John leaves is measured in the lives saved by those who have been ITLS trained. He will be missed.”
Dr. Campbell, an ACEP fellow since 1989, recognized the vital role ACEP and its chapters could play. Some of the earliest BTLS chapters were coordinated through the state ACEP chapters, with 11 continuing their active ITLS involvement as chapters today. The ITLS program is the only prehospital course endorsed by ACEP.
Under the direction of Dr. Campbell, the program grew rapidly, first throughout the southern states and then expanding into the rest of the United States. The program was taught in Canada for the first time in 1986 and in Puerto Rico in 1987. By 1995, BTLS courses had been taught in Singapore, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Russia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Italy, and Cuba.
Today, International Trauma Life Support, renamed from Basic Trauma Life Support International in 2005 to better reflect its scope and mission, is a global organization offering 15 types of trauma courses and teaching over 30,000 students annually in over 40 countries. To date, more than 750,000 trauma care providers have been certified worldwide.
ITLS will continue to advance Dr. Campbell’s mission of improving trauma care worldwide by continuing to develop innovative curricula, programs, and services that are evidenced-based, flexible, and assessment-focused for trauma care providers and the patients they serve.