Medic One began with a basic need and focused vision.
The Seattle visionaries who founded the Medic One program in the late 1960’s believed that bringing an advanced life support system right into the home of a heart attack victim could improve the chances of survival with early pre-hospital intervention. These visionaries were the late Gordon Vickery, Chief of the Seattle Fire Department, and Dr. Leonard A. Cobb, a University of Washington cardiologist.
In concert with the Seattle Fire Department, Dr. Cobb conducted a study to determine whether lives could be saved with pre-hospital care and whether non-physicians could provide high quality care with remote physician guidance. He found that they could – and Seattle Medic One was born.
Today, Medic One’s response system of 911, medical dispatch, basic life support, and paramedic advanced life support enjoys an international reputation for innovation and excellence in pre-hospital emergency care. This quality of care depends upon the ongoing collaboration of several resources, including Harborview Medical Center, the University of Washington, the enthusiastic participation of local fire departments and other providers, and the Medic One Foundation.
From early on, community support and the Foundation have been critical success factors.
Dr. Michael K. Copass is the former Medical Director of Seattle Medic One and Director of the Medic One Paramedic Training Program. He served as Director of Emergency Services at Harborview Medical Center for 35 years, retiring in 2008.
When Dr. Michael Copass talks about the history of Medic One and the Medic One Foundation, his passion for the program is evident. And it’s clear that, like everything worth doing, there have been many challenges along the way.
“We started out by asking a question: if we implement this program, will the fire department’s behavior change the mortality of the city? The answer was yes. We proved it was possible to improve the rapidity of CPR.”
But other healthcare professionals around the country refused to believe the claims. “They couldn’t believe this kind of emergency care could work because it had never been done before,” recalls Dr. Copass. “But the papers reported what was going on. They made it successful.”
As the fledgling Medic One program began saving lives, grateful citizens started donating money to what would become the Medic One Foundation. “Early on it was just a fund, managed by the fire chief, the head of the hospital and the president of the Seattle Rotary,” Dr. Copass explains.
Gradually, the Medic One Foundation took on the role of “independent overseer,” a role that Dr. Copass says helps keep Medic One a worldwide leader in emergency care. “The Foundation guarantees that every individual is trained to the highest level possible. It allows us to ask more of our paramedics than any other program.”
One example: In most cities, trainees have an average of 200 patient contacts before receiving paramedic certification. The average Medic One trainee has 700 patient contacts.
“This Medic One program is the model for much of the world,” says Dr. Copass. “We regularly host visitors from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Chile, Italy, Switzerland, France and many other countries. City leaders hear about Medic One and want to recreate a similar program where they live.”
Dr. Copass says the goal of Medic One training is to take young EMT’s and teach them how to think like doctors in certain situations. “It’s like building an old Porsche, by hand. The Medic One Foundation allows for this finely crafted, handmade program. And the results speak for themselves.”