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Eugene Nagel, pioneer of modern EMS, dies at 98

Nagel helped develop ALS and the country’s first paramedicine program, held leadership roles through the 1980s and was an adviser for “Emergency!”


Dr. Eugene Nagel (wearing a tie on the left) demonstrated telemetry to medics in Miami in this file photo.

Photo/National EMS Museum

By Leila Merrill

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Dr. Eugene Nagel, 98, died Tuesday. He is one of the pioneers of modern EMS.

Nagel fostered important elements in the training, staffing and equipping of EMS crews while he worked in Miami, the Ledger reported Thursday.

Nagel, an anesthesiologist, was instrumental in the development of an early advanced life support system in Miami-Dade County.

He also trained firefighters there to use defibrillators, start IVs, intubate patients and administer drugs.

With Nagel and a cardiologist on staff, Miami developed the first paramedic program in the United States.

The National EMS Museum lists him as one of 11 EMS innovators.

According to the museum:

Nagel helped form the Medical Committee of the International Association of Fire Chiefs in the late 1960s.

He later served on one the first federal HEW review committees that gave grants to communities for EMS systems. He saw the global importance of EMS as well and lobbied successfully in Washington in 1973 to overturn President Richard Nixon’s veto of the EMS Systems Act. His later posts included Harbor General Hospital (UCLA) in 1974 and Johns Hopkins in 1976, where he was a fire surgeon with Baltimore County Fire Department. Nagel was a frequent contributor to EMS Magazine during the 1970s and early 1980s and served on the editorial advisory board for many years.”

Nagel also participated in research on dolphins’ ability to communicate with humans during his time in Miami, his son said.

“Really, the role in emergency medicine, the role in the dolphin research project, was more a result of infinite curiosity,” Dennis Nagel said. “If something interested him, he would devote tremendous time to it. He probably traveled to, I would estimate, close to 50 countries during his lifetime. He became a runner and ran 12 marathons. He just had boundless energy.”

The EMS innovator belongs on “the Mount Rushmore of emergency medicine,” his son said.

Nagel left Miami in 1974 for a job at the University of California Los Angeles. During his time there, he served as a technical consultant for the TV program “Emergency!” He became friends with one of the show’s actors, Randolph Mantooth, who became an advocate for emergency medicine, Dennis Nagel said.

In 2010, the Los Angeles County Fire Museum honored Nagel and three other doctors - Dr. Walter Graf, Dr. John Michael Criley and Dr. Leonard Cobb with the Pioneers of Paramedicine Award for their innovations and persistence in advancing paramedic programs in the U.S.

Nagel is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.