The short history of EMS has been driven by the wisdom, foresight, and innovation of countless individuals. As the field ages into its second half-century and its origins fade to the past, it’s worth commemorating the greatest pioneers of prehospital emergency medical services. This series honors these trailblazers.
Rocco V. Morando
Executive director, NREMT
In 1969, with EMS services taking off across America, President Lyndon Johnson’s Committee on Highway Traffic Safety recommended the creation of a national certification agency that could set common standards for the training and testing of those who delivered emergency services. The American Medical Association’s Commission on EMS created a task force to study the idea of a national registry; by 1970 it became the board of directors of the brand-new National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. In 1971 the NREMT named Rocco V. Morando as its first executive director and administered the first NREMT-Ambulance exam simultaneously to more than 1,500 personnel.
Morando held that position until retiring in 1988 (and remained an executive consultant after that), at which time the NREMT’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, was named for him.
Highlights of Morando’s tenure with NREMT included the first recertification of a nationally registered EMT (1973); development of CE requirements for EMTs and EMT-As (1975); creation of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (1975); development of the first national paramedic curriculum (1976–77); the first NREMT-P exam (1978) and CE requirements (1979); and the first NREMT-I curriculum and exam (1980).
Today the Rocco V. Morando Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by the NREMT, is the most prestigious honor bestowed by the NAEMT. Notable recipients have included Dick Ferneau (1990), Norman McSwain, MD (2002; see below), Drew Dawson (2006), and Jerry Overton (2016).
Trauma care pioneer
Known for greeting people with, “What have you done for the good of mankind today?” legendary trauma doc Norman McSwain, MD, left his mark across multiple organizations and through training that’s saved countless lives.
A fellow of the American College of Surgeons since 1973, McSwain began involvement with Kansas’ Committee on Trauma in 1975 and four years later joined the national COT, leading both its Prehospital Care and Advanced Trauma Life Support committees. He was a founder of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), which worked with the COT to develop its PHTLS program. More than 500,000 providers in 45 countries have now taken it. McSwain was also a certified paramedic.
In 1977 he moved to Tulane University and the next year was asked to develop an EMS system for the city of New Orleans. He served as medical director for that, as well as director of trauma at the Spirit of Charity Trauma Center at Interim LSU Hospital. He helped develop that into a Level 1 trauma center and brought basic emergency medical training to New Orleans police, as well as caring for wounded officers.
McSwain wrote or revised 25 textbooks and delivered more than 800 presentations. He is the only physician in the history of the American College of Surgeons to win all five of its major trauma awards.
McSwain “worked tirelessly throughout his career to ensure that EMS practitioners, both in the civilian and military sectors, received the highest-quality education to enable them to provide the best care,” wrote the NAEMT after his death in 2015. It now bestows the Dr. Norman E. McSwain Jr. PHTLS Leadership Award.