How This Group Of Black Men Became The First Ever Paramedics In America

freedom house ambulance service
Via mwmbloge
Tremain Prioleau II
March 12, 2024

Before the 1970s, it was customary for police officers without medical training to be in charge of medical emergencies. According to journalist and former paramedic Kevin Hazzard, substandard ambulance care contributed to an estimated 1,200 to 2,000 preventable deaths annually in the United States. So what changed?

Austrian-born physician Dr. Peter Safar lost his 12-year-old daughter to a lack of medical care following an asthma attack in 1966. He then designed the modern ambulance and created a training course for paramedics. But it was his first students who changed the game.

In 1967, Black men from Freedom House, a Pittsburgh-based organization that delivered vegetables to Black Americans, started driving people to medical appointments, Within eight months, they were fully trained paramedics, and their first calls were to people injured in the uprising following the assassination of MLK Jr in 1968.

Mayor Peter Flaherty saw the success of Freedom House and cut its funding so that he could fund an all-white paramedic group. Racism may have ended this program, but these men’s impact on professional emergency care has stood the test of time.

Black men excelling as paramedics helped replace untrained police officers in providing emergency care. These men cared about their community, and that made the difference. How can we defy the system as they did and make our society better?

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