Dr. David Boyd: World Leader in Emergency Services
“Trauma care is an amazingly complex and demanding field,” says Dr. David Boyd, MDCM’63. “Every case is different. People get shot differently, they are critically injured, you have to think fast and have a rapid, accurate response to their situation.” Although attracted to a research career, instead he dived into the fast-paced field of trauma care, and then brought a wave of change to emergency medical services (EMS) across the state of Illinois, then the entire United States, and many other parts of the world.
The McGill years (1959-1963) provided his MD and Master of Surgery (MDCM) qualifications. “McGill was the best academic choice I ever made. We had a great class and world-class professors.” He met Joyce Moore, MDCM’63, in the anatomy lab and by second year they were married.
After a rotating internship at the Cook County Hospital (CCH) in Chicago and two years in the US Army, Dr. Boyd accepted a fellowship in shock trauma research at the University of Maryland. Looking for more clinical exposure in trauma care, he went back to CCH — which treated about 7,000 gunshot wounds per year. “I also saw this as a goldmine for academic research and teaching in trauma surgery and critical care medicine. I used the William Osler teaching approach from McGill as a guiding principle for setting up a program.”
CCH was exploring another dimension of trauma care at the time: organizing a single ward with the equipment and experienced people who can deal with the din, distress and demoralization. Dr. Boyd threw himself into this process. The trauma care doctor with new ideas was frequently asked to be a public speaker. He was declared one of the city’s Outstanding Men by the Chicago Junior Association of Commerce and Industry. Governor Richard B. Ogilvie of Illinois tapped him to set up a state-wide trauma and EMS system, emphasizing the critical aspect of getting the urgently wounded patient to competent definitive care as soon as possible. Despite warnings it would end his academic career, he took the challenge. “I went into it anyway, deluding myself that this would be over quickly and I could get back to teaching and research soon.”
The choice of Trauma Center hospitals, which was essential to establishing the Regional Trauma and Emergency Medical Services System, turned into a political hot potato, but he found the challenges invigorating. “We were making a difference on a big scale.” His work on EMS culminated in being appointed by President Gerald R. Ford as National Director of Emergency Medical Services Systems, to replicate the “Trauma/EMS Systems Model” in some 304 Regionalized Systems for a comprehensive national program. Later as a consultant he helped organize EMS systems in China, Japan, Finland, England, Portugal, Italy, Kuwait, Egypt, USSR, and several Canadian provinces. “I didn’t get a contract in Quebec,” he adds, “but I was delighted when an official told me they were already using ‘le modèle Boyd’ for their EMS system.”
Returning to medical practice, Dr. Boyd worked both in trauma and general surgery at the Blackfeet Indian reservation in Montana and other native communities. He became involved in issues such as teen alcohol use, EMS, and tele-medicine. Today he is National Trauma Systems Coordinator for the Indian Health Service.
Dr. Boyd helped his McGill Medical Class of 1963 to hold memorable and well attended reunions, with generous class participation that established a sizable endowment for scholarship support for young McGill medical Students with financial need.
His most cherished recognition is the Blackfeet Nation’s honorary name, Pita Ana (Eagle Man).
Dr. Boyd has published over 140 scientific articles on Trauma, Shock and Trauma/EMS Systems including a textbook on EMS Systems. He has received many honors including the “Distinguished Career Award” from the American Public Health Association (APHA), Injury Control and Emergency Medical Services Section in 1998, the National Safety Council (NSC) Surgeons’ Award for Service to Safety, and the Journal of EMS Physio Control “Living Legends of EMS Award” in 2006. His recent Robert E. Marshall Award stated: “Dr. David Boyd is recognized as the person responsible for developing the trauma care and emergency medical systems in use throughout the United States. Through his vision and unrelenting pursuit of accomplishment, Dr. Boyd is responsible for saving countless thousands of lives every year.”