ACEP is Born

In 1967 Dr. John Wiegenstein and Dr. Eugene Nakfoor teamed up to provide emergency room coverage for St. Lawrence Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. Dr. Wiegenstein wanted to know more about "what do we do the first hour". With no formal training available, he sought it in unconventional places: a cruise that featured an emergency orthopedics program, EMT training in Ohio. Intrigued to find a doctor in his class, the EMT instructor invited Dr. Wiegenstein to dinner along with a representative from the Division of Accident Prevention of the U.S. Public Health Service. Dr. Wiegenstein talked about the need for a national organization for training emergency physicians, and his dinner partners encouraged him.

Dr. Wiegenstein found other physicians through the company that handled his billing. On August 16, 1968, 8 physicians met in a Lansing Holiday Inn: Dr. Wiegenstein; Dr. Nakfoor; John Rupke, MD; John Rogers, MD; Robert Rathburn, MD; Richard Lingenfelter, MD; Robert Leichtman, MD; and George Fink, MD.

Hot on the agenda: "college" versus "academy." Dr. Wiegenstein at first favored an academy, having used the American Academy of General Practice as an organizational model. Dr. Rogers argued that a "college" might carry more heft. Membership was limited to those who "voluntarily devote a significant portion of their medical practice to emergency medicine and surgery." The inclusion of osteopaths led to the first organizational rift; Dr. Lingenfelter never returned.

One doctor brought a lawyer to facilitate incorporation, and by day’s end Dr. Wiegenstein was chairman of the American College of Emergency Physicians, whose goal was getting practitioners together to determine the best ways to run and maintain a viable emergency department. His original intent of furthering the education of emergency physicians wasn’t included, but would be addressed soon enough.

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