Before ER, There’s EMERGENCY!

When the medical drama Emergency! debuted on January 15, 1972, viewers’ first glimpse at an emergency physician at work is of Dr. Joe Early, holding a young boy upside down to shake out a quarter.

Then an electrocuted lineman is rushed in, but Dr. Kelly Brackett and Nurse Dixie McCall lose him. Brackett is upset, and McCall presses her point: "Kel, if somebody with the right equipment and trained to use it had gotten to this man in time, he’d be alive now." The scene sets up the pilot plot: Los Angeles is training its first paramedics, but by law they can’t work.

Brackett has his doubts but agrees to help with paramedic training. Not until young Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto disobey orders to save Dixie does he relent. Finally he testifies before the California Assembly that paramedics would be "the most important advance in emergency medicine in the last 50 years."

Emergency! ran for 133 episodes and is credited with helping spur the growth of emergency medical services in the U.S. The credits listed Brackett and Early as F.A.C.S., but an important early script consultant was Ronald Stewart, MD, an early graduate of the Los Angeles County/UCS emergency medicine program who was developing L.A.’s landmark paramedic training program. In 1986 ACEP awarded Stewart the James D. Mills Outstanding Contribution to Emergency Medicine Award.

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