DALLAS, Aug. 16, 2068 —“Good morning, Mr. Smith,” the nursing home’s artificial intelligence bot chimes. “Your heart rate and respiratory rate have been trending upwards overnight. I also noticed that you were coughing and your oxygen levels are a bit low. Would you like me to call the ED?”
A moment later, the hologram of an emergency physician appears. “Place the auscultation sticker on your back. It sounds like you have some fluid in your lungs, which could be secondary to a variety of conditions. You don’t look so hot, and you’re 72, so I think you should come in for a 3-D ultrasound and possibly some IV antibiotics.”
Emergency medicine has come a long way since ACEP was founded in 1968, from the first training program at the University of Cincinnati in 1970 to the founding of the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association (EMRA) in 1974 to finally being recognized as the 23rd medical specialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) in 1979. Fifty years later, TV shows like “M*A*S*H” and “ER” have been produced, EMTALA and the prudent layperson standard have been enacted, and more than 140 million patients seek care from us annually.
Our nation has gone from dermatologists treating our sickest and most vulnerable patients in emergency rooms to specialist emergency physicians providing care in sophisticated departments. We’ve transformed America’s acute care system. However, as the residents who lead EMRA, it’s our job to imagine and prepare for the future. Fifty years from now, emergency medicine will be as different from today’s specialty as we are currently from our 1968 roots.