UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson Earns Nearly $2 Million in Grants to Improve Statewide Emergency Medical Services

March 1, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Emergency Medicine has been awarded three grants totaling nearly $2 million in support of statewide emergency medical services (EMS) projects.

“Together, these grants are the result of the work of our entire University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson EMS team and will improve the EMS care provided across Arizona while addressing health care disparities seen in both our rural and urban communities,” said Joshua Gaither, MD, professor of emergency medicine.

The first grant, which totals $1.35 million over four years, was awarded by the Arizona Department of Health Services through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Melody Glenn, MD, MFA, assistant professor of emergency medicine, and Nicola Baker, MD, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine, will focus on increasing the capacity of first responders to respond to and prevent known or suspected overdoses in Arizona, specifically in rural or underserved areas. Key activities for the administration of this grant include providing resources and devices, such as naloxone kits and individualized outreach to participating agencies, [BDA(1] for first responders, training first responders on safely administering the devices, and establishing policies and procedures for the implementation of evidence-based care practices. The study will be supported by Amber Rice, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, Dr. Gaither, and numerous collaborators from the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Center for Rural Health.

The second grant, awarded to the UArizona Center for Rural Health by the Health Resources & Services Administration, totals $600,000 over two years and will be used to improve rural EMS system performance, which will be compared against national benchmarks. By improving data collection, implementing automated quality improvement systems and providing benchmark-directed education, the EMS team hopes to improve patient outcomes for individuals with time-critical illness. The project will be implemented at five rural EMS agencies across Arizona, and if found to be effective, the study team will work with the Arizona Department of Health Services to make project tools available across the state.

Daniel Derksen, MD, director for the Center for Rural Health, will oversee this grant in collaboration with Dr. Gaither, Dr. Rice, Jennifer Smith, MD, PharmD, clinical associate professor of emergency medicine, Philipp Hannan, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, Keith Primeau, MD, MPH, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine, and Rachel Munn, DO, assistant professor of emergency medicine.

Department of Emergency Medicine EMS Fellow Mary Knotts, MD, will lead the department’s effort on a $20,000 grant from Global Medical Response, the largest medical transport company in the world. The award will be used to determine if difficult airway manikins — “dummies” that serve as realistic models of patients — can be used to facilitate the comparison of airway management tools used by first responders to perform endotracheal intubation, in which a breathing tube is placed into the windpipe through the mouth or nose. Investigators will track the first-attempt success rate, the number of attempts needed and the total time to achieve intubation. Researchers will compare the outcomes between the traditional and the newer dummies.

This research is supported by: the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (U2WRH33311-04-01), The Health Resources & Service Administration (ADHS18-185671) & The National Association of EMS Physician (NAEMSP) / Global Medical Response (GMR) Foundation.

Photo credit: Kris Hanning, University of Arizona Health Sciences