Emergency medicine (EM) is a medical specialty based on the knowledge and skills required for the prevention, diagnosis and management of acute and urgent aspects of illness and injury affecting patients of all ages; with a full spectrum of undifferentiated physical and behavioral disorders. Dominique Jean Larrey is considered the father of emergency medicine for his development of what would today be called MASH units during the French Revolution.
Emergency medicine encompasses general medicine and surgery as well as their sub-specialties. Physicians and ancillary personnel are responsible for diagnosing, treating and triaging patients for outpatient discharge or for admission. The scope of emergency medicine includes personnel from nursing services, fire departments, EMTs, ambulance drivers, etc.
Since EM became a recognized medical specialty of the American Board of Medical Specialties in 1979, the prestige and scope of their work has continued to expand. Prior to the 1960s emergency departments were staffed by physicians who were on staff at that institution. Now we depend upon these highly trained specialists to care for many of our patients, and to notify us when we are needed to provide specialty care beyond the emergency room setting.
In this issue several of these specialists will provide up to date information about their day to day practice. They are often taken for granted in spite of providing an invaluable service to us and to all of our patients. What would we do without the system of emergency medicine that has been developed in this country? We extend our thanks to them, and to all who contribute to keeping us safe from harm and injury; and who care for us when we are injured or suffer an acute, sometimes life-threatening event.
– W. David Hager, M.D., FACOG