A medical pioneer in our backyard
October 29, 2011
In the past few months there have been many news articles and advertisements highlighting the automated external defibrillator (AED) devices that have saved numerous lives up and down the Roaring Fork Valley. I thought it might interest your readers to know that living in our valley is the physician who first promoted a defibrillating device to be used in medical emergencies.
My husband, Dr. Sidney (Sid) Smock, was head of Emergency Services at the University of Michigan Medical Center during the mid-1970s. A board-certified anesthesiologist, he was a pioneer in the development of the emergency medicine specialty.
In the course of treating patients presenting to the ER, Sid became aware, with his anesthesiology expertise, of the value of defibrillating a pulseless patient at the scene of the emergency incident. Sid published a paper in the Journal of Emergency Medicine in 1976, advocating the procedure of defibrillation by EMTs. It was a bold recommendation at the time (Sid was ahead of his time regarding countless medical concepts, but I will not digress). Colleagues poured cold water on the idea in medical journals and in seminars, essentially squelching the development of the AED for a couple of decades.
Discouraged by political squabbles, Sid moved away from the bureaucracy of a medical school environment, turning to private practice of medicine in Phoenix, Ariz., where he became a leader in the development of new techniques of anesthesia for eye surgery.
Thankfully, the concept of defibrillation at the scene of a medical emergency was revived in the 1990s by a new generation of physicians, who researched and developed the “easy for anyone to use” AED.
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Sid retired eight years ago this week at age 71, at which time we turned our second home outside Basalt into our permanent residence. He has been seriously ill over the past two years. At this difficult time for him, the recent publicity lauding the benefit of the AED has gladdened his heart! Many thanks!