In 1960, heart disease and cancer were on the minds of the Greatest Generation, even meriting inclusion in the Democratic Party Platform. President John F. Kennedy appointed pioneering heart surgeon Michael DeBakey to lead a group studying how to advance research and care. Their findings were to be personally delivered to JFK, but on that same day the Bay of Pigs debacle broke. After waiting several hours, they left the report and "never heard another word," according to DeBakey.

When he assumed the presidency, Lyndon B. Johnson revolutionized health care for the under-served by establishing Medicare and Medicaid. He also appointed DeBakey to the Presidential Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke. Johnson himself had a deep personal stake in the work, having been laid low for 6 weeks in 1955 by a serious myocardial infarction.

The DeBakey Commission advocated many improvements in health care research and infrastructure, including the the establishment of treatment and research centers for heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The heart stations included "immediate and emergency care for patients with acute cardiovascular emergencies." DeBakey’s report led to the Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke Amendments of 1965, which poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the creation of our modern medical system, including emergency services.

Next Week: 1965 Report Calls for Increased Emphasis on Emergency Care 

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