EMS pioneer, Dr. Eugene Nagel, visits UF to discuss early days of emergency care

“In those days,” began Eugene Nagel, M.D., “ambulances carried three things: bandages, oxygen and splints, and they only charged for oxygen and for mileage just like a taxi.”

Those days were the early 1960s when mobile coronary care was in its infancy. Who better to offer a glimpse into the past than Dr. Nagel, a pioneer in the field of Emergency Medical Services. Widely considered one of the four founding fathers of paramedic programs in the U.S., he recalled the early days of emergency care out before a group of University of Florida emergency medicine faculty and students July 23, 2015.

The electrical engineer-turned-anesthesiologist began his work in the field at Jackson Memorial Hospital and soon was working with first-responders at a Miami fire station. The times were unfriendly toward expanding the life-saving efforts by firemen beyond chest compressions and ventilation. Dr. Nagel was unphased, remained persistent and eventually succeeded in introducing telemetry to the field. The use of radio frequencies by firefighters to transmit EKGs to physicians with whom they were in radio contact led to the use of defibrillation by first responders in the summer of 1969. Such new practices brought the need for legislation and Dr. Nagel lobbied in Washington, D.C. for legislation that eventually became the EMS Act of 1973.

Dr. Nagel credits the popularity of the television series Emergency! that ran from 1972-1977 with raising demand across the country for paramedics and advanced medical training in the pre-hospital environment.