Why should I get a 4 year BS degree in EHS when I can get my paramedic certification through a fire department or community college?

The design of the UMBC Paramedic Concentration is to not only prepare students as medical professionals in the out-of-hospital environment; it encompasses course work to expose them to finance, management, research, and leadership. Our program is one of thirteen accredited institutions offering a baccalaureate degree in Emergency Health Services.

The UMBC Department of Emergency and Disaster Health Systems (formerly known as Department of Emergency Health Services) has a long and rich history as a leader in the field of emergency services education.

Originating with Dr. R Adams Cowley, MD, founder of the Shock Trauma Center of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS), formulated the concept for the EDHS department (formerly know as EHS) at a Shock Trauma Center staff meeting in 1979. He assigned Dr. Dorothy Gordon, DNS, to be the Department’s first director and bring his idea to fruition. She negotiated a home for the new and innovative academic Department on the UMBC campus. Dr. Gordon then hired Jeffrey T. Mitchell, Ph.D., a former Maryland EMS Regional Coordinator, as the first faculty member in the Department. Soon, in July 1980, the Department began operations as an academic program, accepting its first students in September of that year.

The first courses taught in the Department were EHS 200, Introduction to Emergency Health Services, and EHS 302, Clinical Concepts and Practice (the EMT course). They quickly developed other courses such as Stress and Burnout in Emergency Medical Personnel, Disaster Management, and Emergency Response to Crisis. The Department hired several EHS Management courses and additional faculty members to teach these courses in 1981. The University elevated the EHS program to a full academic department early in 1982.

By the fall of 1982, the paramedic program was instituted, and the details for the management track courses were finalized. The first graduate of the EHS department was John Donohue in 1984. The graduate master’s degree program was also planned and instituted that year. Ron Levine, who eventually became a cardiologist, graduated first in the EHS Master’s degree program in 1986.

The UMBC EDHS department has demonstrated consistent leadership in the EMS and related fields for over 40 years. It organized, for example, the first international conference on Stress and Burnout in Emergency Services Professions in 1983. The EDHS department also developed the Critical Care Emergency Medical Transport Program (CCEMTP) program, which remains a benchmark program in the EMS continuing education field.

Our faculty are frequent presenters at national and international conferences and hold or held leadership positions for various professional organizations. The UMBC EDHS faculty members have also published numerous books and articles that continue to influence the EMS field. Most notably, Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell, the founding father of Critical Incident Stress Management, has served as a consultant on stress to the United Nations, numerous military organizations, and emergency services programs worldwide.

The history of the UMBC EDHS department (formerly known as EHS) includes many success stories among its graduates. EDHS department graduates have led at least three state EMS agencies. In 2018, Bill Seifarth became the Executive Director of the National Registry of EMTs (NREMT). Then in 2022, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration appointed alumni Gamunu Wijetunge as the director of the Office of EMS. About three dozen graduates have become physicians, physician’s assistants, or nurses. Others have migrated toward the military and law enforcement fields; two are agents with the US Secret Service. Many serve as paramedics, firefighters, supervisors, or hospital emergency department managers.

In January 2024, the department formally changed its name to the Department of Emergency and Disaster Health Systems to acknowledge our longstanding academic programs in emergency health services and disaster management. The change signifies our commitment to a broader and more comprehensive approach to emergency and disaster health. Along with our department name change, we are refreshing our academic programs in light of growing threats in our social, natural, and built environment systems due to disasters, public health emergencies like COVID-19, our changing climate, and health disparities. We are excited to roll out those program updates in the coming semesters.

EDHS will continue to uphold the highest standards of academic excellence, fostering innovation, and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration. Our mission remains steadfast: to educate, research, and innovate for the betterment of emergency and disaster health systems.