Sheldon Jacobson, MD: Father of the New York City EMS Paramedic Program
In 1973, the New York City Emergency Medical Service, like most of the ambulance services around the country, provided little more than basic first aid and a fast ride to the critically injured patient. The ambulances were affectionately know as “Bread Boxes” because they were built on the step van chassis favored by the bread and bakery delivery services. While the “arsenal of medical equipment” consisted of splints, bandages, OB kit, a foam filled BVM, a useless foot operated suction pump, a RevivaLife resuscitator incapable of free flow oxygen, stair chair, and a scoop stretcher.
The TV show Emergency! went on the air in January 1972, depicting a totally new concept: non-physician Paramedics trained to interpret EKG’s, start IVs, administer fluids and medications, control the airway, and defibrillate at the scene of the emergency. The nation was fascinated with the show and pilot programs were starting in many major US cities.
The world of EMS in New York City changed radically because of Dr. Sheldon Jacobson. Then-Chief of Emergency Services at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, he recognized that both ED Physicians and Emergency Medical Technicians needed better training in order to have any meaningful impact on patient outcomes. He formed the Institute of Emergency Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine where the first Emergency Residency program in NYC was conducted. The first class of Paramedics, “Jacobi 1”, hit the streets of the Bronx in July 1974 with two medic units out of Jacobi Hospital.