The Father of EMSC - Dr. Calvin Sia

The Early Years

Watch this video to learn more about how Dr. Sia helped secure this landmark legislation.

The Advocacy of Dr. Calvin Sia

More than thirty years ago, emergency medical service (EMS) systems were created to provide rapid intervention for sudden cardiac arrest in adults and rapid transport for motor vehicle crash victims. Experiences from the Korean and Vietnam Wars demonstrated that survival rates of seriously injured solders could be dramatically increased by stabilizing them and providing them with immediate transport to a well-equipped trauma center. Attempting to duplicate the success in communities across America, the EMS system was created.

Initially, the medical community failed to recognize that children required specialized emergency care. The most glaring deficiency in past emergency care for children among emergency workers is simply being unaware of the pediatric population’s special needs. In 1972 Calvin Sia, MD, president of the Hawaii Medical Association, urged the American Academy of Pediatrics to develop EMS systems that would decrease disability and death among children. Dr. Sia worked with Senator Daniel Inouye who later was joined by Senators Orrin Hatch and Lowell Weicker in sponsoring the first EMS for Children (EMSC) legislation which passed in 1984. This landmark legislation provided federal grant funds starting in fiscal year 1985 to help states improve the emergency care given to children suffering from a life-threatening illness or injury. EMSC funding was and continues to be secured largely due to the work of the AAP and other national organizations that continue to advocate for EMSC.

Leadership Beyond: The Legacy of Dr. Calvin Sia

Credit: Hawai’i Pacific Health

The late Dr. Calvin C.J. Sia leaves behind a lasting legacy in pediatric medicine. Much of the best practices applied today at Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children and in Children’s hospitals across the United States and Asia, were implemented by Dr. Sia’s passion and commitment to ensure the rights and welfare of children.

Dr. Sia created the concept of a “Medical Home”, something he believed every child deserved, to improve delivery of health care services to children. The concept has been adopted in over 700 primary care and specialty care societies, health plans, consumer groups and organizations across the United States and Asia.

Dr. Sia was a pioneer for children’s health, collaborating with U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye and Hawai‘i State Governors, Legislators and Officials. His concept of a “Medical Home” was realized through grants and studies were conducted for medical journals. In 1984, the influential pediatrician enacted the National Emergency Medical Services for Children. Today, pediatric emergency services are available in every state.

For the 38 years of his career, Dr. Sia was accessible to his patients, inviting them to call him at home during his “welcome” call hours. He developed prevention practices, well care and management of chronic care for children with special health needs. He founded the “Zero to Three” program which ensured free educational services for disabled children to include infants, toddlers and preschoolers.