J. Michael Criley, MD founded the Los Angeles County Paramedic Program in 1969. He served as Chief of the Division of Cardiology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center for 20 years and as a full time faculty at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center for 42 years. He was honored with the title of emeritus professor of Medicine and Radiological Sciences at the UCLA School of Medicine.
The initial program Dr. Criley conducted at Harbor General Hospital consisted of 18 firefighters, from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and six from Los Angeles City Fire Department.
Dr. Criley convinced both the medical and public safety community, along with politicians, that a well designed pre-hospital delivery of coronary care level of emergency care could be performed by well trained civilian personnel. He also realized one significant barrier that complicated his goal: there was no enabling legislation that would legally allow paramedical personnel to provide this advanced level of emergency care. Dr. Criley and Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn travelled to the state capital to gain the support of both the legislators and Governor Ronald Reagan, to approve such law.
According to Dr. Criley, the Governor was initially reluctant to support the proposed legislation due to opposition by state nurse and medical associations. He suddenly supported the bill after he was advised that the proposed paramedic programs would be actually be allowed to cross jurisdictional lines to assure that the closest available medic unit could render care in a neighboring city or county. It just happened that Reagan’s father died when an ambulance service in his home state was prohibited from crossing county boundaries and assist his father when he collapsed and was in need of emergency care. This prompted the Governor’s support for the Wedsworth-Townsend Act. Reagan would later become President and support national legislation establishing EMS funding throughout the country through the U.S. Department of Health, Education & Welfare (DHEW).
The Los Angeles County Department of Health’s Paramedic Training Institute (PTI) was founded by Dr. Criley and continues its mission to this day.
Submitted to NEMSM August 2011 by National EMS Museum Foundation Volunteer