Physician Recalls Early Years of Emergency Medicine

When Dr. Frank Drews came to Memorial Hospital in 1971, he was one of the hospital’s first emergency department physicians. He served as the first director of emergency medicine at a time when this medical specialty was in its infancy.

When he was an attending surgeon at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey, Dr. Drews decided to move to Maryland’s Eastern Shore after seeing an ad Hospital in the Journal of the American Medical Association for a position at Memorial. He was ready for a change from a surgical schedule that required him to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Eastern Shore promised a more relaxing environment for his wife, Rita, and his children Christine and Jonathan. Dr. Drews and his wife also thought the Shore suited their avocation of breeding harness horses.

Dr. Drews, who lives in Easton, recalls how emergency medicine has changed since the early years of his practice. “When I arrived at Memorial Hospital, the hospital had just employed its first full-time emergency department physician,” he says. “Emergency departments were run by the nurses in those early years. The nurses called in physicians who were in private practice to provide the medical care.”

Dr. Drews adds, “In the late 1970s, emergency medicine was just emerging as a specialty. Prior to the 70s, emergency departments utilized surgeons since much of the work was trauma related. When I got started there was no residency in emergency medicine; you just learned on the job. As physicians, we learned from the nurses and from one another.”

Dr. Drews attended emergency medicine courses each year in Florida to stay abreast of the latest developments in the field. In the 1970s he served as district chairman for the Eastern Shore District of the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, which was founded in 1969 by the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. He recalls Memorial Hospital’s expansion in 1976, which accommodated a helipad for transport to the Shock Trauma Center.

“Today, most emergency department cases involve internal medicine – strokes, heart attacks and serious medical conditions,” Dr. Drews says. “The entire practice of emergency medicine has evolved into a real specialty.”

Memorial Hospital’s emergency room was originally called “The Dispensary.” When Dr. Drews arrived, he was tasked with setting up the new emergency department. As the only physician, he covered the hospital five days a week, working a 12-hour shift each day. During the evening hours, the emergency department was staffed by nurses, who called in physicians as needed. On weekends, the emergency department was staffed by physicians from the U.S. Naval Academy Hospital in Annapolis and medical residents from Baltimore area hospitals.

Over the course of the next three years, Dr. Drews hired four physicians so that the emergency department could be covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week by its own staff. He remembers, “I realized that the size community we were on the Eastern Shore required us to cover this need ourselves.”

When asked about how he recruited physicians to the Eastern Shore in those years, Dr. Drews remembers, “We got the idea to advertise in Yachting Magazine since many physicians have boating as a hobby. We were flooded with applicants.”

Dr. Drews retired in 1981. During his 10-year tenure, the Memorial Hospital emergency department went from serving 25 to 40 patients a day, to 80 to 110 patients a day. Today, almost 30 years later, the emergency department serves close to 30,000 patients a year.

Frank Drews, MD, FACS, FACEP, received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a medical degree from Long Island College of Medicine. He served as house surgeon at the Englewood Hospital in New Jersey from 1940 to 1941. He then served in the Army of the United States from 1942 to 1946. He completed his surgical residency at the Jersey City Medical Center before joining a surgical practice in 1948. From 1948 to 1971 he served as president of the Medical Staff and as Chairman of the Emergency Department Committee of Englewood Hospital.