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Film details development of emergency medicine

Documentary highlights individuals involved in growth of emergency care in ’50s and ’60s

In a single day, over 300,000 people will go to emergency rooms across the country seeking medical attention in the United States. The new documentary film “24|7|365: The Evolution of Emergency Medicine” explores the experience of the people who developed emergency medicine in response to the changing needs of Americans during the ’50s and ’60s. The documentary, with heavy ties to the Brown community, premiered on Rhode Island PBS Dec. 29.

“Emergency medicine is a specialty that is new and only exists because America wanted it,” Mark Brady MD’09, executive producer of the documentary, told The Herald. “When you tell people that a generation ago there was no 911, they are surprised.”

“It is important for people to know why (emergency medicine) exists. You take it for granted now that it’s a generation old,” Brady said.

Brady highlighted the importance of emergency medicine’s requirement to treat anyone and everyone. “The emergency room is the only place that has to take patients regardless of their ability to pay. It’s important for everyone to know that if you’re sick anybody can go to the emergency room,” he said. “We’re the only people who don’t care about the ability to pay, and that’s an important social service.”

While a student at the Alpert Medical School, Brady’s faculty advisor was Brian Zink, professor and chair of Emergency Medicine. Brady turned to Zink to serve as the film’s historical consultant.

“The development of the field really goes hand-in-hand with the social and political movements of the ’60s and ’70s,” Zink said. “Emergency care was being provided because no one else had a place to go when they were sick or injured.”

Zink said the film told “an interesting story about some early pioneers.”

Over the last century, emergency medicine has made significant strides, he said. “It was really dismal back in the 1900s. We tolerated really poor emergency care for a long, long time, and it was a field where there was a clear-cut need for improved care. It took the medical establishment a long time to realize this and to put things into action.”

Emergency medicine at the Med School currently focuses on using technology to monitor patients both in the emergency departments and after their time in emergency care, Zink said.

The documentary was made by the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association, an organization that specializes in training residents in the field of emergency medicine. As a part of the group’s “Legacy Initiative,” it will “archive the history of emergency medicine and the pioneering spirit of its founders,” according to the documentary’s website.

“The Evolution of Emergency Medicine” was awarded a Bronze Telly as part of the 35th Annual Telly Awards, which honor local cable television broadcasts, as well as films, videos and various online productions, according to their website. The documentary is available to watch for free online on the EMRA website.


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