Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Emergency Medicine

Emergency Medicine History

Emergency Medicine (EM) has had a presence at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine since the earliest days of the specialty. Following is a timeline of key events in our history.


Northwestern Memorial Hospital came to be when Chicago Wesley Memorial Hospital and Passavant Hospital merged their respective training programs under Northwestern University Medical School and the McGaw Medical Center for Graduate Medical Education. This was followed by the merger of the administration of the hospitals into one structure, and the more gradual task of joining the medical staffs into one. 


Dr. R. R. Hannas joined the staff at Northwestern’s community affiliate, Evanston Hospital, to establish EM as a clinical area and to develop a residency program. His efforts resulted in the third emergency medicine residency program in the country.  


Don Cohen, MD, became the first resident of the Evanston-based program, which consisted of two years of specialty training in EM following internship and was accredited by the Liaison Residency Review Committee (LRRC) for EM. The residents of this program trained at both Evanston Hospital and NMH. At the time, EM was not yet recognized as a separate and independent specialty. 


Bernard Feldman, MD, became the first Medical Director for Emergency Services at NMH.  The program was under the Department of Surgery. 


Dr. Cohen succeeded Dr. Hannas as Medical Director at EH.
NMH was designated as the first Emergency Medical Services (EMS) base station within Chicago, and the Chicago EMS System began with five ambulances. Dr. Tetik was designated as the first Project Medical Director. 


Construction was completed on an expanded Emergency Department (ED) within the Wesley Pavilion. 
EM at NMH transferred from General Surgery to the Department of Medicine. James Mathews, MD, was asked by Roy Patterson, MD, chairman, Department of Medicine, to take over the leadership of the program. 


Emergency Medicine was established as a Division within the Department of Medicine.  Dr. Mathews was appointed the first  EM Division Chief.

A four-year combined residency in Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine, based at NMH, was established. Dr. Steve Adams became its first resident. 


The parallel residency programs at Evanston and NMH merged and the administrative base of the program moved to NMH.  
Dr. Nick Pullos was named Medical Director of the Division of Emergency Medicine.  Sadly, Dr. Pullos passed away from Hodgkin’s Disease in 1981.  Although his tenure was short, his contribution to the development of the specialty within Northwestern was great.


Jeff Graf, MD, was appointed Medical Director. 


Steve Adams, MD, became Division Chief of the Division of Emergency Medicine.


James G. Adams, MD, was named Division Chief of the Division of Emergency Medicine. 


Northwestern University Board of Trustees renames the medical school in honor of benefactor Reuben Feinberg.

The Emergency Medicine rotation became a requirement for medical students at Feinberg.


The department initiated the Davee Excellence in Emergency Medicine Project, through the generous support of the Davee Foundation. This project improved the patient experience in the Emergency Department through three initiatives:

Davee One – Achieving Service Delivery Efficiencies
Advancing the speed and accuracy of diagnosing and treating patients through:

  • Improving the triage and intake process
  • Developing real-time process controls
  • Creating an observation unit for patients requiring less than 24 hours of care

Davee Two – Optimizing Communications
Improving communications between care providers and patients and their families through:

  • Using patient and family feedback to improve interactions
  • Applying communications best practices from the medical environment and other high-performance teams to the department
  • Integrating the best practices into daily operations and internal educational programs

Davee Three -  Advancing Care
Developing best practices for three goals:

  • Promoting seamless transitions (e.g., discharge, hospital admission)
  • Utilizing medical informatics to improve continuity and quality of care
  • Implementing evidence-based practices in patient care and management


Emergency Medicine was established as a full department within the medical school.


The Department of Emergency Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital continued its leadership role in pre‐hospital medical care (Emergency Medical Services) for Chicagoans. NMH successfully led the EMS system through a restructuring that elevated the focus and performance of the entire Chi­cago network of hospitals.


The ED began caring for patients in a brand new expanded space dedicated to the care of the emergency patient – the ED mezzanine. This space consists of 22 care spaces, as well as four additional processing spaces that are fully equipped for care.


Over 250 residents have completed emergency medicine residency training at Northwestern.  The residency program is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year.

The Geriatric Emergency Department Innovations (GEDI) program is introduced at Northwestern, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center with the support from a CMS Health Care Innovation Award. Lead by Dr. Scott Dresden (Director of GEDI and Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Northwestern University and Dr. Mark Courtney (Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine), the goal of the program is to improve health, healthcare, and reduce costs for geriatric patients through structural and process enhancements and improved transitions from ED back to the community or home based on the best available evidence.  As of 2018, the program has reduced the risk of unnecessary admission of older patents at Northwestern by 33%.


The new Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest hospital opened its doors on March 3rd, 2018. This new hospital serves as a Level 2 trauma center for the northern suburbs of Illinois.