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In Their Own Words: Tactical-Medicine Physicians

John Pi, M.D., at FBI SWAT Tactical Medical Training.

John Pi, M.D., at FBI SWAT Tactical Medical Training. Photos: Valerie Walker

"Shots fired! Officer down! Officer down!" Moments later comes the response: "Making entry. Roll fire. Code 3."

A life is at stake. Waiting for trained medical support will decrease the wounded officer's chance for survival. But with some basic medical training, non-medical first-responders can improve the odds. That is the role of the tactical-medicine physician, to educate and train law-enforcement officers in such medical procedures as tourniquet application, airway management, splinting and wound care.

Rushdi Cader, M.D. '95, Joe Nakagawa, M.D. '00, and Atilla Uner, M.D., M.P.H. '02, who completed his residency in emergency medicine at UCLA in 1997, teach lifesaving techniques to local and federal law-enforcement officers. Drs. Nakagawa and Uner support the Hawthorne Police Department, while Dr. Cader founded SWAT Trauma Assistance Training (STAT), a company that manufactures tactical-training products and provides tactical-medicine instruction throughout the state. As an FBI agent for 15 years, John Pi, M.D., another UCLA emergency-medicine resident (1996), is among the nation's foremost experts in tactical medicine. Currently, he is a supervisory special agent based in Washington, D.C.

Rushdi Cader, M.D. ’95 (standing), demonstrates wound care.

Rushdi Cader, M.D. ’95 (standing), demonstrates wound care.

"Tactical physicians typically sacrifice an inordinate amount of their time and resources for the protection of law-enforcement officers. It is a passion born out of a physician's respect and admiration for those who keep Americans safe. As part of their job, tactical physicians find themselves in the back of an armored vehicle, treating the injured and hoping their team returns safely. SWAT docs like Drs. Nakagawa, Pi and Uner are a special breed: part physician, part law enforcement, and all heart! They are truly selfless. Simplifying emergency-medical care for tactical operators through easy to-learn acronyms and hands-on training creates a cohesive team of informed participants instead of a disarray of passive and frantic observers. The tactical environment is one in which a few measures applied rapidly and with familiarity by the first officer on scene can save the life of a fellow officer. If in the years that we do this work, one officer is saved, all of the sacrifice is worthwhile."

- Rushdi Cader, M.D. '95
Medical Director, San Luis Obispo Regional SWATPresident, SWAT Trauma Assistance Training
Attending Physician, Sierra Vista Medical Center

Atilla Uner, M.D., M.P.H. ’02 (right), during defibrillator training.

Atilla Uner, M.D., M.P.H. ’02 (right), during defibrillator training.

"Tactical emergency medicine is simply a specialized form of conventional emergency medicine adapted to save lives in law- enforcement tactical situations. By focusing on life-threatening and limb-threatening conditions that can easily be reversed by simple medical and tactical procedures, tactical medical operators stand in the front line of law enforcement to deliver sound tactics and medical care to save lives."

- John Pi, M.D.
Supervisory Special Agent, FBI,
Critical Incidence Response Group, National Assets Response Unit

Emergency medical services (EMS) is the science of providing medical care in an out-of-hospital setting. In order to give lifesaving treatment to the acutely ill and injured with the limited supplies and diagnostics we can carry, we have to distill emergency medical care down to its most essential components. It requires the utmost expertise and skill to know what to do when and what to leave out. Tactical EMS is simply a necessity. We cannot let injured officers remain without help when a crime scene is not secure. And we cannot put private or fire-department ambulance personnel in harm's way by sending them into tactical situations for which they are not prepared."

- Atilla Uner, M.D., M.P.H. '02
Tactical Physician, Hawthorne Police Department
Associate Medical Director, UCLA Center for Prehospital Care

Joe Nakagawa, M.D. ’00 (center), during defibrillator training.

Joe Nakagawa, M.D. ’00 (center), during defibrillator training.

"I see tactical medicine as my way to help those men and women who put themselves in harm's way to help others. Law enforcement is a dangerous job, yet for so long officers were not given the tools and knowledge they needed to help themselves or their partners. We're here to fix that situation."

- Joe Nakagawa, M.D. '00
Medical Director, Hawthorne Police Department
Emergency Medicine Physician, Torrance Emergency Physicians Group


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