Department of Emergency Medicine

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The History of Our Department

The County of Los Angeles was chartered in 1850 and the Board of Supervisors began providing hospital care in a 100-bed facility in 1878 with 47 patients and 6 staff members. An affliation was developed with the University of Southern California for medical training in 1885 and in 1929 the General Hospital cornerstone was laid.

In 1971, a new training program in Emergency Medicine was launched at Los Angeles County, University of Southern California Medical Center (LAC+USC). Stressed by the same factors that had increased emergency visits across the country, "Big County" was handling a thousand emergency patients a day. Gail V. Anderson, MD, director of obstetrics and gynecology at LAC+USC Medical Center, was asked to head up the ED and petitioned the USC Medical School for academic department status. To his surprise, this was granted, and Anderson became the first chairman of the first Department of Emergency Medicine in a US medical school in October of 1971. Dr. Anderson continued his leadership of the department for the next 31 years, eventually building the training program to 72 residents (4 postgraduate years of 18 residents each). The reputation of the Big County grew and individuals graduating from the program were coveted in the community for their clinical acumen and effectiveness under pressure. In the late 1980's, Dr. Edward Newton joined the faculty as the Residency Director and in 2002 became the Department's second Chairman.

The Department of Emergency Medicine (DEM) is an autonomous clinical and academic department within the LAC+USC Medical Center and Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. It has the responsibility for initial triage, evaluation, management, and disposition of up to 500 patients daily, including a complete spectrum of adult and pediatric medical and surgical conditions.

The patients served at the LAC+USC Medical Center come from a varied ethnic background with a significant Latino population, a substantial working class population and a large number of indigent patients. Since the County Hospital is tasked with providing care for all those who cannot afford it elsewhere, the mean socioeconomic level tends to be low with the attendant problems of chronic poor health maintenance, difficult access to health care, and lack of support systems. Superimposed on this demography is a high incidence of gang- and drug-related violence and vehicular injury, which leads to a large volume of both penetrating and blunt major and minor trauma.

Historically, emergency services at LAC+USC were spread across several buildings and departments on the campus of the medical center, ranging from the Urgent Access Diagnositic Center, to the Jail ED, to the Psychiatric Evaluation area, to the emergency services at the Women's and Children's Hospital (where pediatric non-trauma and non-emergent OB/GYN patients were seen). In General Hospital, adult patients were triaged to one of several clinical areas, depending on their primary complaint and acuity level.

With the advent of the replacement facility in 2009, designed and constructed over approximately 15 years at a cost of over one billion dollars, all emergency services provided at LAC+USC have been consolidated into one central department, located on the ground floor of the Diagnostic and Treatment (D&T) tower of the new hospital. The new facility is one of the most technologically advanced hospitals in the United States, and the emergency department, with over 120 monitored beds, is its centerpiece.

The Department of Emergency Medicine is also responsible for an active Paramedic Base Station, the Hyperbaric Treatment Chamber on Catalina Island, the Center for life Support Training, and Research, the Emergency Evaluation Area of the Los Angeles County Jail Service, and a 15 bed Observation Unit.

History: Department Chairs

edited version

  1971 – 2002: Gail V. Anderson Sr., M.D.

Dr. Edward Newton Headshot

   2002 – 2011: Edward Newton, M.D.

 SOH Main headshot

   2012 - present day: Sean O. Henderson, M.D.

University of Southern California University of Southern California