UCSF Creates New Academic Department of Emergency Medicine

July 01, 2008
News Office: Kirsten Michener (415) 502-6397

The UCSF School of Medicine's new Department of Emergency Medicine welcomed its first medical residents with the official establishment of the academic department today (July 1). Dr. Michael Callaham is the first chair of the new department.

The formation of this new academic department unifies UCSF's research and training programs at UCSF Medical Center on the Parnassus campus and at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center (SFGH), and the well-established department and emergency residency at UCSF-Fresno. It is expected to facilitate collaboration with the future pediatric emergency department at the new UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, which will have integrated specialty hospitals for women, children and cancer patients. Emergency medicine is one of the top residency choices for UCSF medical school graduates.

"Until now, these students have all had to leave San Francisco for an emergency medicine residency," Callaham said. "Having this new academic department allows us to better compete for the best faculty, residents and grants, as well as create a more productive environment for training and research."

Together, the emergency departments at UCSF Medical Center and at SFGH treat 93,000 patients per year, which provides fertile ground for medical students to learn about treating undifferentiated patients of all types.

"Because emergency medicine is one of the few areas in medicine where almost all specialties intersect and interact, the new department will benefit all patients, students, and residents, not just those in emergency medicine," Callaham pointed out. "Creating an academic department reinforces the idea that emergency medicine is a specialty that is growing in size and importance."

One feature of the residency program that is attractive to students is the opportunity to work at SFGH, which is a Level 1 Trauma Center and the only trauma center for the City and County of San Francisco. Another attraction is UCSF Medical Center's state-of-the-art emergency department, which was renovated in recent years to make patient flow more efficient, integrate modern information technology, and improve patient privacy.

In recent years, emergency medicine has become firmly established as its own specialty, with unique training programs and research opportunities, 13 peer-reviewed scientific journals and numerous emergency medicine-specific textbooks. Two-thirds of medical schools already have their own departments of emergency medicine, including UC Davis and UC Irvine.

As chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, Callaham brings more than 30 years of emergency medicine experience to his role. A graduate of UCSF, Callaham did his residency in emergency medicine at Los Angeles County/USC in the early 1970s, making him among the first doctors in the country to complete training in the practice of emergency medicine, as well as pursue rigorous research into what really happens in emergency care across the country.

He has established a reputation for investigating — and de-bunking — popular methods that turn out to be ineffective, including administering adrenaline and providing mechanical devices to resuscitate heart attack patients who suffer cardiac arrest.

The clinical and educational impact of emergency medicine includes:

  • A fourth of all hospital admissions at UCSF Medical Center and two-thirds at SFGH are first evaluated and treated in the Emergency Department, providing integrated training for medical students and residents in the care of the undifferentiated patient.
  • Emergency medicine has been one of the top residency choices for UCSF medical students since 1996, hitting a new high in 2005 with 13 percent of the class, second only to internal medicine.
  • Emergency medicine plays a major role in providing disaster and routine out-of-hospital care and provides medical supervision of all emergency medical services, bioterrorism and hazardous materials events, and disaster care in San Francisco.
  • During the last 40 years, emergency medicine has grown into a distinct medical specialty. As late as the 1970s, only three medical schools worldwide had emergency medicine residencies. Today, more than 125 emergency medicine residency programs exist in the United States and more than a dozen peer-reviewed journals and over 100 emergency medicine-specific textbooks have been published.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

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