Pioneer, Visionary, and Friend

Dr. Leonard Cobb, one of the founders of Medic One, as well as the Medic One Foundation, passed away on February 14, 2023.

His achievements are many, but perhaps the most notable was helping establish the Seattle Medic One Paramedic Training Program at Harborview Medical Center in 1970 and, a year later, developing bystander CPR training for non-medical professionals. Both of these programs have earned worldwide acclaim and inspired fire and emergency medical service departments to follow in Seattle’s footsteps.

In 1968, Dr. Cobb, the Director of Cardiology at Harborview, approached Seattle Fire Chief Gordon Vickery with a history-making idea. He believed that survival rates for cardiac patients would improve if they received effective pre-hospital care. So, with funding from the Washington/Alaska Regional Medical Program, Dr. Cobb and Chief Vickery created a paramedic training course for 15 firefighters, collaborating with the UW School of Medicine, Harborview, and the Seattle Fire Department. In March 1970, the program had its first save, and countless more followed. 

In 1971, Dr. Cobb, Fire Chief Vickery, and Seattle Rotary No. 4 launched Seattle Medic Two. A program designed to train community members in CPR. In a 2020 interview, Dr. Cobb said, “This was, perhaps, our most important contribution” to establishing Seattle as a leader in out-of-hospital resuscitation. To date, the Seattle Fire’s Medic Two program has trained more than 1 million people in CPR.

Both the Seattle Medic One Paramedic Training Program and Medic Two were a huge success. However, by the second year, the grant money supporting Medic One was running out. Both Dr. Cobb and Chief Vickery refused to let the program fail. So, they inspired a community wide effort to save the program, raising almost $200,000. In 1974, Dr. Cobb and a group of physicians and community leaders created the Medic One Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for the Medic One Paramedic Training Program. Over the years, the Foundation’s mission has expanded, funding research, EMS equipment, as well as developing a community CPR/AED & First Aid Training Program and EMT Scholarship Program.

After handing off the medical direction of the Medic One Paramedic Training Program to Dr. Michael Copass in 1993, Dr. Cobb remained actively involved in clinical research. He worked to ensure the ongoing excellence of Medic One paramedics until well into his 90’s.

As a result of Dr. Cobb’s leadership, our region’s EMS system is widely considered one of the best in the world. Dr. Cobb will undoubtedly remain in our memories, and his legacy will continue to live on through the thousands of lives his work continues to save each year. We will remain in his debt for his innovation, leadership, and passion for saving lives.


Second Chance to Live

Since 1970, hundreds of paramedics have been trained and countless lives saved. Medic One was destined to change the world’s approach to emergency medicine. 


We are so Grateful…

“Dr. Cobb was one of the greats in emergency medicine. His vision for partnership with fire resources and leadership in a relentless pursuit of excellence through training has established Medic One as the global standard for emergency medical services.”—Brian Webster, Board President, Medic One Foundation

“Dr. Leonard Cobb was a forward-thinking innovator who transformed the way we approach delivering public safety and emergency care. He pioneered a partnership between the Seattle Fire Department and medical providers to launch Medic One, which set the standard for excellence in pre-hospital emergency care and has become a national model. Our city is grateful for his contributions which have helped save countless lives, and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”—Mayor Bruce Harrell

“Dr. Leonard Cobb was a legend in the EMS world as one of the founding fathers of the response system here in King County.  Over many years, he’s offered numerous gifts to our region, but beyond his exceptional intelligence and vision, warm demeanor and dogged perseverance, he was a person who could bring disparate people together and work together for a common purpose.  I’m personally so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Cobb over the years and witness the deep impact he’s had in all of our lives.” – Michele Plorde, Emergency Medical Services Division Director, Public Health-Seattle & King County

“Dr. Cobb’s and Fire Chief Vickery’s contributions to EMS cardiac care and CPR training changed the Fire Service and how we serve our community. Dr. Cobb’s forward thinking and innovative contributions changed our profession for the better and has now stood the test of time for over 50 years!”—Chief Harold D. Scoggins, Seattle Fire Department

“Dr. Cobb relentlessly sought to improve the system of emergency cardiac care. He was willing to consider innovative approaches to delivering lifesaving therapy inside people’s homes. From the very first patient, Dr. Cobb sought to review what went well and what might be done better the next time. His humility and sharp assessment encouraged others to believe in his vision. I am grateful to have known and learned from him.”—Dr. Michael Sayre, Medical Program Director, Seattle Fire Department

“Dr. Leonard Cobb transformed our approach to emergency care.  More than 50 years ago, he pioneered a partnership between the medical community and the Seattle Fire Department to “co-opt” firefighters to expand their responsibilities to become what we now know as EMTs and paramedics.  This model has proven remarkably efficient and effective, and importantly has saved thousands of lives in our region alone and served as a strategy for many other communities around the US and the world. Dr. Cobb possessed a tremendous ability to engage many: public safety organizations such as Fire Departments, traditional medical providers such as physicians and nurses, and a spectrum of community perspectives. He leveraged this good will and collaboration with substantial clinical insight to advance public health.  Dr. Cobb was committed to systematic measurement as a means to improve patient care, so he would implement new ideas to improve treatment for time-sensitive medical emergencies such as cardiac arrest, myocardial infarction, and major trauma. We will miss his discerning questions, his quick wit, and his warm smile.  He was one-of-a-kind.”—Dr. Tom Rea, Medical Program Director, King County Emergency Medical Services

“Dr. Cobb was a pioneer in the field of out-of-hospital emergency medicine. He has touched the lives of thousands world-wide through his work. Medic One and the Medic One Foundation has lost a great leader and friend, but we will continue his mission to save more lives will live for generations to come. “—Kim Duncan Martin, Executive Director, Medic One Foundation

“Dr. Cobb laid the foundation of the Medic One system using the mantra, ‘Measure, Improve, Measure, Improve.’ The standard he set for quality patient care, scientific rigor, and continual quality improvement carries over into everything we do. His legacy will live on as we work with partners around the world to save lives from cardiac arrest.”—Ann Doll, Executive Director, Resuscitation Academy Foundation

“Dr Cobb’s vision, scholarship and leadership was known to me long before my chance to first meet him. So much of my EMS system’s opportunity to improve survival from out of hospital cardiac arrest is directly attributable to what he achieved and made available to the world through the use of the scientific method. Attending seminars and conferences with him in attendance was humbling, all the more so because of his abiding humility. Such people as Dr. Cobb, rare in any generation, seem to have a clear vision of a significant problem that needs to be solved and they apply their grit, passion, powers of persuasion and ingenuity and it somehow gets done. It should remain an inspiration to us all that there was an individual who was not daunted by creating a new treatment paradigm, educating and training those who would fulfill the promise, providing widespread access to defibrillation out of the hospital, convincing the medical establishment that this “paramedicine” could be safely and effectively done. The world owes Dr. Leonard Cobb a debt of gratitude.”—Dr. Michael Levy, Chief Medical Officer Anchorage Areawide EMS, President, National Association of EMS Physicians

“To say that Dr. Leonard Cobb had an impact on lives would be a terrible understatement, without mention of the how and why.   He was before his time in championing life-saving systems of care that are now taken for granted, thanks to his efforts.  He transformed ambulances (which could do little more than transport sick patients to hospital) into intensive care vehicles, staffed by trained paramedics who could diagnose and treat a wide variety of emergencies before hospital arrival.  This was little more than an experimental concept before it was so successfully piloted in Seattle and King County under his leadership.  Dr. Cobb brought rapid deployment of automated external defibrillators by firefighter-EMTs into the mainstream for victims of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, along with point-of-care telephone instructions in CPR, putting life-saving hands into the arsenal of every bystander at the moment this was most needed.  All of these and more continue to save countless lives not only in our community but across the world and largely advanced the science to what it is today.  The “why” behind Dr. Cobb’s efforts deserves equal emphasis.  He was unassuming, never sought personal credit for these innovations and always promoted others.  His mantra was “to measure is to improve” – a principle he instilled in all of us.  His quest for knowledge and impact on public health have laid a solid foundation for those of us who have been so fortunate as to ride on his shoulders, because our own feet were far too small to fit into his footprints.”—Dr. Peter Kudenchuk, Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine’s Division of Cardiology, Arrhythmia Services, University of Washington

Though most famous for his incredible work creating a modern EMS system by which all are measured, Dr. Cobb has also been a core pillar at Harborview Medical Center.  Dr. Cobb is one of the father’s of Harborview on whose shoulder’s this institution was built. I first heard of Dr. Cobb learning CPR as an impressionable high school student, then stood in awe as a wide eyed paramedic student in Paramedic Training Class 14. I am one of the tens of thousands he has impacted and mentored. His work and vision will live on for generations. His dedication and dogged determination was exceeded only by his kindness, grace and humility. He was always approachable and kind—he handled the simplest of questions with a gentle kindness that I’ll always be grateful for.—Steven H. Mitchell, MD FACEP, Medical Director, Emergency Department, Harborview Medical Center, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine