UNM EMS vehicles in the mountains
By El Gibson

Academy Appreciation

EMS Academy Celebrates 50-Year Anniversary

Over the past 50 years, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Academy at The University of New Mexico has robustly expanded its training platforms while simultaneously embracing its roots.

When Paul B. Roth, MD, MS, first became chief of the Division of Emergency Medicine in the Department of Family, Community and Emergency Medicine in 1982, he quickly learned that the EMS Academy was the product of two national initiatives addressing the lack of effective prehospital care in America.

Roth, the retired chancellor of The University of New Mexico Health Sciences and longtime dean of the School of Medicine, said the first of the two initiatives was federal legislation that created and funded Regional Medical Programs to determine the extent of injuries and illnesses like cancer, stroke and heart disease at the state level.

The second was when the National Academy of Sciences published a paper entitled, “Accidental Death and Disabilities: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society.” The paper, which attributed the large annual highway death toll due to ineffective emergency response, revolutionized the way EMS providers view and manage injury in America.

Consequently, the EMS Bureau was established as part of New Mexico state government and the EMS Academy was created in 1972, located within the UNM School of Medicine’s Division of Emergency Medicine. Roth said the two organizations worked closely together and had regular joint planning meetings to establish regulations for operations and standards for training.

“I was privileged to have participated in these annual events and grew to fully appreciate the enormous commitment and comradery of the men and women in EMS services throughout our state,” Roth said. “Most of the state’s EMS community were made up of volunteers from small towns who willingly devoted themselves to help their neighbors in medical emergencies.”

Because the EMS Academy is tasked under state charter, state legislation enacts the Academy’s service mission.


Over the past 50 years, EMS Academy graduates have gone on to work and serve and lead at all levels in the medical community, and you can find these graduates working all across the state of New Mexico and all across the world providing excellent patient care in many different capacities.
β€” Kim Pruett, MD, EMS Academy Associate Medical Director

“For 50 years, the Academy has worked with that in mind – creating opportunities for people who wish to serve their communities and allowing them to get education through the state’s flagship institution, and then be able to return to their communities all across New Mexico and provide service to their families, friends and the cultures they come from,” said Jacob Debevec, program coordinator for the Division of Prehospital, Austere and Disaster Medicine within the UNM School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

Much of the EMS Academy’s work involves serving rural and tribal communities in New Mexico by providing initial and continuing education courses.

Kimberly Pruett, MD, the EMS Academy’s associate medical director, said trainees operate under one of the most progressive and challenging scopes of practice in the country, necessitated by the demands of practicing in a largely rural and underserved environment. 

“Over the past 50 years, EMS Academy graduates have gone on to work and serve and lead at all levels in the medical community, and you can find these graduates working all across New Mexico and all across the world providing excellent patient care in many different capacities,” said Pruett, who also serves as the state EMS medical director. “The EMS Academy has demonstrated an understanding of the unique needs of the citizens of the state of New Mexico and is committed to meeting those needs.”

The Academy continues to grow as the state’s needs continue to evolve.

Among those new initiatives is a partnership with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) that provides training to underserved and underrepresented young people, including those from rural and tribal areas, as well as those who age out of CYFD’s foster system or who exit the juvenile detention system.

Through the program, “at-risk youth are brought in and given an EMS education as well as a lot of comprehensive mental health and well-being services so they can continue to work in their communities, and they have a path to success through EMS,” Debevec said.

Going forward, EMS Academy leaders hope to establish a resilient EMS workforce for the state, serve in-need communities and establish that EMS is part of medicine.

“The history and existence of the EMS academy over the past 50 years is an amazing feat and demonstrates the level of commitment encourage by our predecessors as well as the current EMS Academy team,” said Mateo Garcia, MD, EMS Academy medical director and associate professor of Emergency Medicine.

“It is a privilege to be a small part of something greater than any one individual, it is amazing to see learners graduate and enter into a field where they will go on to become leaders and experts improving the care delivered to our New Mexico communities and citizens.”

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