When we moved from being a conjoint board with family practice to a fully independent board, we’d come of age as the 23rd specialty board in the United States.
KK: Is there anything that either helped solidify the foundation of emergency medicine or attempted to destabilize it?
GH: There was no specialty that ever grew as fast as emergency medicine. People saw that it was an intellectual challenge, needing excellent people. The paradox was that excellent people were needed in cities, which weren’t prominent academically. We were needed where the patients were, as one of the first specialties that was truly patient-centered.
As health care becomes more and more complex, our role in resource management and guiding policy is only going to increase. This reflects what citizens of the United States need to receive better health care.
KK: Greg, you’ve been described as the junkyard dog of emergency medicine, because you defended us tirelessly. Do you have a personal story you can share?
GH: One humorous story is about my daughter marrying the son of the chairman of radiology at Duke. This was, at first, an unholy alliance [emergency medicine and radiology], as might be expected. However, as we got more and more into this, the chairman, following insurmountable pressure, made sure that their ultrasonography people were going to train the emergency medicine residents exactly the same as he did the radiology residents. Perhaps, this helped to lessen some political barriers in training and access to point-of-care ultrasound.
As ACEP President, I represented us at the American College of Surgeons. Everyone sitting on the other side of the table from us was a professor at an ivory tower program. Almost none of them actually primarily saw patients. I pointed out, “The thing that you’re most afraid of is us taking your jobs, which is exactly what the surgeons want us to do in the community. They don’t want to be running in for anything unless they’re about to take them to the operating room.”
After we got our barbs, comments, and Shakespearean quotes out, they said, “You know, you may have something there and it may be important.” In the old days, all the trauma resuscitation stuff was under the control of surgery. Interestingly, that wasn’t where the surgeons were doing most of their research. Emergency physicians were initially caring for trauma in this country.