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Dr. Ernest to lead new UNMC Division of EMS

Image with caption: Eric Ernest, MD, joined the UNMC faculty in 2014.

Eric Ernest, MD, joined the UNMC faculty in 2014.

Eric Ernest, MD, joined UNMC in 2014 as part of an effort by the UNMC Department of Emergency Medicine to strengthen its focus on prehospital and emergency medical services (EMS).

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From left, new UNMC Division of Prehospital and Emergency Medical Services faculty Abraham Campos, MD, Tim Larsen, MD, Shaila Coffey, MD, and division chief Eric Ernest, MD.

This month, he was named the chief of the new UNMC Division of Prehospital and Emergency Medical Services, the first division in the UNMC Department of Emergency Medicine.

"Dr. Ernest has been our leader for EMS activities," said Michael Wadman, MD, chair of the department. "He's been very successful in that role, as well as helping us recruit the key people we needed to create this division. And during his time at UNMC, he has established relationships across the metro and across the state that are key to our success going forward."

When he arrived, Dr. Ernest said, the department wanted to create strong partnerships with its rural and urban pre-hospital partners.

"Although individual service lines at Nebraska Medicine interfaced with EMS, there really wasn't any one department dedicated to EMS," he said.

In addition to his new role, Dr. Ernest, a fellow of both the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Academy of Emergency Medical Services, also serves as the state's EMS medical director. In this role, there is a large focus on governmental advocacy, statewide protocol development and addressing statewide challenges for prehospital providers, including the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Meet the faculty

In addition to Dr. Ernest, the department will include three board-certified EMS physicians:

  • Abraham Campos, MD
  • Shaila Coffey, MD
  • Tim Larsen, MD
  • Robert Chaplin, MD (guest faculty)

Dr. Ernest also provides medical direction for a wide variety of EMS agencies, from the small volunteer agencies to larger urban and suburban agencies. He has been involved in several unique EMS-related projects, including an advanced life support EMS non-transport agency for a large rural area that is unique to the state. He also was heavily involved in the creation of a tactical medical team that currently is the only one in the region that services law enforcement agencies in Sarpy County.

The creation of the new division, Dr. Wadman said, allows the emergency medicine department to maximize efficiencies and infrastructure, as well as coordinate EMS efforts within the department and strengthen the department's partnerships with those EMS agencies.

"There's a lot that can be done throughout the smaller communities," Dr. Wadman said. "There's a statewide network of different agencies, and the better that network is working, the more the patients get the right level of care at the right time. This division will help these agencies access the expertise that we have here and across the state in a timely manner so we can have the best outcomes.

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Faculty member Shaila Coffey, MD, works with Omaha Fire & Rescue personnel.

"We have many complex, severely ill and injured patients coming from the community into our emergency department," Dr. Wadman said. "Our EMS physicians can help improve care in that phase, allowing our patients to have the best outcome possible."

There also will be a large educational focus for the division. Not only will the division train and educate current and future prehospital providers, it also will focus on the education of physicians to become EMS medical directors and leaders in the field. The department recently was approved through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to start a one-year EMS fellowship and currently has a goal of recruiting its first fellow for the 2022-23 academic year.

Dr. Ernest also expects that the department's work with the UNMC College of Public Health and the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, as well as the chance to practice both rural and urban EMS medicine, will make the division an attractive destination for potential fellows and, as the division grows, faculty members.

"The continuum of care we provide helps make us unique," he said.

On the frontlines in emergencies

The UNMC Division of Emergency Medical Services will indeed offer unique opportunities.

One example: EMS faculty also have provided medical direction and oversight for STacMed (Sarpy County Tactical Medic Team).

"This is a hybrid team that is unique to this area that comprises both physicians as well as law enforcement offers who are dually trained as either EMTs or paramedics," Dr. Ernest said. "We have provided close warm-zone and hot-zone support for law enforcement activities."

(A "hot zone" is an area with a hazard or threat to life. A "warm zone" is an area where threat risk is minimal.)

Dr. Ernest and two team members were on the scene at the shooting at Sonic Drive-Thru in Bellevue in November 2020. See coverage of the event here.

"The STacMed partnership is unique to Sarpy County and has been very successful," he said. "It's an example of the relationships between the UNMC EMS physicians with specific prehospital training and expertise and our community partners."

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