On August 16, 1968, eight physicians from around Michigan met at the Holiday Inn Lansing at the invitation of John Wiegenstein. They chatted for a while, then signed documents creating the American College of Emergency Physicians. Then they returned home to save lives.
While they met, someone was home staffing the emergency department. Then as now, the nation’s emergency departments are always open – someone is always on duty. During that historic meeting in 1968, back home in Ann Arbor, that person was Rudy Douthat.
Rudenz T. Douthat, M.D., is one of the unsung founders of emergency medicine. He was born in West Virginia, not far from where King George III gave his ancestors title to 500,000 acres in Virginia and where Douthat State Park still remains. Rudy went to school at Marshall University and the University of Michigan, and then to West Virginia University to complete a 2-year medical college before finishing his medical degree at Washington University.
After graduation, he trained in surgery at the University of Michigan, then spent 1955-57 in the U.S. Army. After serving his country, Rudy returned to West Virginia and worked at Miner’s Hospital for $800 a month, followed by a private practice in Saline, Mich.
Like many, Rudy found the allure of emergency medicine irresistible. In 1967 he joined Bob Ideson and George Fink in the full-time practice of emergency medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. At the time, there were six full-time emergency medicine practices in Michigan. (They all used the same billing agent, an accountant who charged the groups 8%. To this day, our founders are still upset that the accountant retired comfortably on her emergency medicine–related earnings.)
Each of the Michigan groups knew the others and constantly compared notes about their developing emergency medicine practices. When John Wiegenstein invited one representative from each group to attend his historic meeting, Bob was out ill, George went to the meeting, and Rudy stayed home to see patients. George signed the ACEP incorporation papers and gained distinction as a founding father. Rudy was the forgotten one.
Interestingly, George did not last long in ACEP. John Wiegenstein put George in charge of the newsletter. In the first issue, George wanted to publish a picture of a statue that said “don’t #^*@ on us.” John did not like it. George would not back down. John prevailed but George resigned and never returned to ACEP.