Nancy Cummings: Interview with Dr. Elwood Schmidt

Nancy Cummings

[The above image is of Dr. Elwood Schmidt and Nancy Cummings. All images courtesy of Nancy Cummings.]

This blog comes to us courtesy of board member Nancy Cummings.

As a Nevada Humanities Board member and a 4th generation Nevadan, I am deeply interested in the history of my home state.  I recently interviewed Dr. Elwood Schmidt who is writing a history of the development of emergency services in Nevada.  The following is an excerpt from that interview:

Nancy:   “What is this you are writing about?”

Dr. Schmidt:  “I’m writing a history of emergency services in Nevada as told by the people who were active in providing the services during the “modern” era, the time after the national white paper in 1966 showed the enormous loss of life in the US because people were not receiving adequate or appropriate care before they reached the doctor or hospital.”

Nancy: “Why are you writing this now?”

Dr. Schmidt:  Because memories and lives of the people who were part of the early services are being lost by death or fading memories.

Nancy: “Why should we care?”

Dr. Schmidt: “I think we all take for granted that an ambulance with trained personnel will come for us if we fall, become too ill to transport ourselves, or suffer an accident, in downtown Las Vegas, or Reno, or on the road from Fallon to Ely.  We’re right, someone will respond, and usually in an appropriate manner, but that service just didn’t happen.  A lot of people have put in time learning what to do.  A lot of people and agencies over the years have come together to provide the equipment to respond.  Thought and planning and money went into the development of the system to call for the help and direct that help to you.”

Nancy: “How are you getting the story?”

Dr. Schmidt: “I practiced in multiple small towns in the state and met the ambulance folks in those communities.  One of the people I know is Pat Irwin, Nevada’s State Coordinator of Emergency Medical Service.  He gave me some of the names of people he knew who have been active for years, and one person would name some other people and the list has grown.  I scrounge around on line, by phone, by e-mail, by attending EMS meetings and meeting people and setting up an appointment.  I then meet with them accompanied by John Kasinger, a master photographer, who takes their picture, makes a video-recording of the meeting and I write notes of the interview.  Then I organize the notes and type up a story of that individual’s part in developing EMS in their community. Every community’s story is unique to that area because of the economics of the area, the demographics, and the strength of vision of the individuals making up the service.”

Nancy: “Who is paying for all the time materials, and effort?

Dr. Schmidt: “My wife has been very supportive of my efforts in every way and has allowed me to pursue what has become my mission in life.”

Nancy: “What will you do with this history?”

Dr. Schmidt: “I plan to see this published as a book.  The book is organized as a chapter for each county with stories from each of the counties and communities within each county where I have been able to make contacts and get stories.  I have interviewed 95 people so far with Humboldt, Elko, White Pine, and Lincoln still to be accomplished.  I believe some publisher will find merit in the subject matter, the wonderful photography, and the individual stories and publish the book.  Arrangements have already been made to archive the materials with the UNLV Oral History Department.

Nancy: “When do you plan to have this completed?

Dr. Schmidt: “My plan is to have completed the project by Sept 2013 and have it in the hands of a publisher.  Please, note that I titled this a history of Nevada EMS because it is an ongoing story and because I don’t think I can possibly get The history.  However, by writing the book and doing the interviews I believe I have captured memories and events that would otherwise be lost, and perhaps inspire others to do a more complete history of their particular area.  This subject is too important to all our citizens to allow the history of its development to fade away.”

PS---Dr. Schmidt happens to be my husband.