EMS officials mark 50th anniversary of 1st paramedic act

The Wedworth-Townsend Act, which legally recognized and protected paramedics, was signed in California on July 15, 1970

By Laura French

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — EMS agencies and officials are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the nation's first paramedic act, signed in California on July 15, 1970. 

The Wedworth-Townsend Act, signed by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan 50 years ago on Wednesday, legally recognized the practice of paramedicine and protected paramedics administering intensive prehospital care in the state, the California Ambulance Association and National EMS Museum recounted in a news release marking the anniversary. 

Los Angeles Doctors Walter Graf and J. Michael Criley were the first to train paramedics in the state to deliver pre-hospital care to heart attack patients without direct physician intervention, treating and transporting them in mobile coronary care units and increasing survival rates. Criley and Graf partnered with Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn to address the risks of performing intensive care across jurisdictions and operational boundaries, leading to the drafting of the paramedic act. 

The act was the first of its kind in the United States and spurred other states to pass their own legislation officiating the field of paramedicine, ushering in a new era in emergency medical services. 

"Today we celebrate the hard work and foresight necessary to write and pass the Wedworth-Townsend Act. We are inspired by the tireless efforts of our colleagues in the field who carry on the traditions of innovation, education, and sacrifice for the good of our patients," said National EMS Museum Director Kristy Van Hoven, in a statement. "We thank them for keeping Californians safe and inspiring colleagues across the country." 

In recognition of the anniversary, the California Ambulance Association is dedicating an entire edition of its magazine "The Siren" to commemorate the signing of the act. 

EMS agencies and organizations also marked the anniversary on social media. 

The California Emergency Medical Services Authority, which was established under the Wedworth-Townsend Act, wrote on Facebook that it was "proud to recognize California's illustrious EMS history."


July 14, 2020 markes the 50th Anniversary of the Wedworth-Townsend Act.The California Emergency Medical Services...

Posted by California Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) on Tuesday, July 14, 2020


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