BOSTON -- Emergency medicine is still a relatively new specialty, the weekly presence of emergency room doctors on our television screens notwithstanding. Born from the experience of treating soldiers in Korea and Vietnam - and aided by the rapid advance in diagnosis and treatment options - Americans now take the presence of the nearby emergency room as a basic fact of life.
But the events of September 11th prompted other nations to take a look at their disaster management and emergency care capabilities. And Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center - in conjunction with Harvard Medical International - is playing a key role in the Italian province of Tuscany's efforts to make emergency medicine a specialty.
The Tuscan Emergency Medicine Initiative (TEMI) is a collaboration among the Tuscan Ministry of Health, University of Florence, BIDMC and HMI to develop a formal training program for physicians who want to work in emergency departments and a certification process for physicians who are already working in emergency settings. A rotating team of BIDMC physicians is laying the ground for a three-year master's degree in emergency medicine that will serve as a bridge to direct specialty training. Current practitioners will undergo a 12-month course followed by a "test of safe standards."
"I don't think that many of the physicians [in Tuscany] have a very good idea of what emergency medicine is," says Kevin Ban, M.D., a BIDMC attending physician who is spearheading the program. "We are working with doctors who are very talented on the clinical side, but the emergency medical system here is tremendously cumbersome" involving the interaction of multiple doctors from multiple specialties, rather than an emergency medicine specialist who makes the initial diagnosis of patients after they enter the hospital and then moves their care forward accordingly.