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DC confirms resignation of medical director. Doctor from Atlanta will take over.

Dr. Michael Williams, in the white shirt, from a May, 2008 Washington Post photo by Sarah L. Voisin.

The DC Fire & EMS Department officially confirmed late Wednesday evening a STATter 911 report from earlier in the day that Dr. Michael Williams, the department’s medical director, has resigned. As expected, Dr. James Augustine, the current deputy medical director, will take over as acting director.

According to a press release issued by the department, Dr. Williams “submitted his resignation effective August 29 in order to pursue new career opportunities”. Sources within the DC government indicate there had been increasing tension between Dr. Williams, the department’s leadership and Mayor Adrian Fenty’s staff over the direction of EMS in the District of Columbia.

Dr. Williams could not be reached for comment, but he told Elissa Silverman of The Washington Post, “I think it was thought best that I resign”.

Aides to Chief Dennis Rubin indicate Rubin did not ask Williams to resign. Sources familiar with the situation tell STATter 911, the arrival of Dr. Augustine earlier this month, along with a struggle over maintaining a leadership role in the department in an effort to implement his vision for EMS in the city, helped make it clear to Dr. Williams that it was time to move on.

A department spokesman supplied this statement from Chief Dennis Rubin about the changes:

“While I am sorry to see him leave, I am confident that this department will continue to build on his legacy of passionate commitment to the improvement of emergency medical services. Dr. Augustine is a nationally recognized leader in the field of emergency medicine and I am excited about the leadership and knowledge he brings to the department.”

Kenneth Lyons, a paramedic who is the president of the union representing the department’s civilian EMS force, said Wednesday evening, “Six medical director’s in seven years says a lot about the city’s commitment to EMS”.

Lyons has long battled with city officials over the direction and leadership of EMS. Lyons had secured a campaign promise from Mayor Adrian Fenty to separate EMS from the fire department. Mayor Fenty instead followed the recommendation of a task force led by Chief Rubin to keep EMS within the department.

In April, Mayor Fenty and Chief Rubin announced a plan to make the civilian force uniformed members of the department. That would mean one rank structure and disciplinary process to cover both fire and EMS. The plan provides for improved retirement benefits. It would also likely mean the EMS workers would then become members of IAFF Local 36 and leave AFGE Local 3721 lead by Lyons.

When the plan to unify the department was announced, Chief Rubin had hoped to have it in place within two weeks. The plan has run into delays, including the need for council legislation scheduled for September.

Dr. Williams was hired in the wake of a report outlining serious problems in the delivery of emergency care after the January, 2006 death of former New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum.

Rosenbaum’s son-in-law, Toby Halliday, who served on the EMS task force, told The Washington Post, “Dr. Williams is responsible for some of the most important improvements in the EMS program and we’re sorry to see him leave.”

Dr. Augustine was previously medical director for the Atlanta Fire Department. Chief Rubin had been chief in Atlanta prior to coming to Washington in April, 2007.

The department’s press release indicates a national search will be conducted for a new medical director.

Below is Dr. Augustine’s resume provided by the DC Fire & EMS Department:

James Augustine, MD

Interim Medical Director, Fire and Emergency Medical Services

Dr. Augustine’s service in the emergency system spans 27 years. He is a board-certified emergency physician who has experience as a firefighter, EMT and medical director in Ohio and Atlanta, Georgia. He recently joined DC Fire and EMS after performing as Medical Director for Atlanta Fire Rescue Department and Airport Division of Atlanta Fire at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Having a strong commitment to emergency services and preparedness, Dr. Augustine has been a long-term participant in EMS leadership and disaster preparedness activities. He served as first chair of the Ohio EMS Board and as president of the Ohio Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He chaired ASTM Task Group E54.02.01, which developed Standards for Hospital Preparedness. He was chair of the Health Care Section of the Atlanta Metropolitan Medical Response System.

Augustine is executive editor of the journal ED Management, a senior reviewer for Annals of Emergency Medicine, and on the editorial boards for the journals EMS and JEMS. He has published numerous articles on emergency services and participated in national and state leadership activities on emergency systems.

Augustine graduated from the Ohio State University, then attended medical school at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He received his emergency medicine training through Wright State School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine. After completing a fellowship in Emergency Department Administration, he participated as a faculty member at Wright State University and Emory School of Medicine. Augustine just moved into Washington, DC with his wife Linda, and has three children – Jill, Josh, and Jenna.

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  • Anonymous

    This is a return to the good old boys days. Fire/EMS as a white man's only club.

    I knew Dr. Williams and didn't care for him. I seriously doubt that he bucked anyone there, because he pretty much was a yes person, as you have to be to survive in the Fenty administration.

    My guess is the Rubin wanted his own man as a medical director. People who care about such things as racism & sexism should take a good look at the "new" fire department. It is almost entirely run by white male firefighters, in almost every field. The good old boys think this is the way things should be. Black male fire officers are given token and relatively unimportant jobs.

    It goes like this: firefighters (mostly white male) are kind. "Single role" EMTs and paramedics, mostly female and black, are second class. "Regular" civilians (mostly black women) including female professionals are third class. The lone Black male in a leadership position there, Brian Lee, has been given the "low prestige" job of employee disciplne & policy. His supervises the two lawyers, the EEO director, the FOIA person, the HR staff. All of these are black women.

    None of these women can get to the Fire Chief directly, they have to go through their "chain of command"
    In order to have any power, you have to been in the room and that is definately not happening these days. The good old boys call it progress! I call it a return to insitutionalized racism and sexism.

  • Joe Lowry

    Fourth paragraph down… first word… AIDS… woops. AIDES.

  • Dave Statter

    Glad someone is proofreading this stuff.

    Thanks for catching it.

    Statter

  • Anonymous

    Can anything…… ANYTHING happen in this department without someone crying racism??? It's 2008, can we please put it behind us?

  • Anonymous

    You are right about the race thing anonymous. The move was purely not racial. Williams did nothing for EMS as a Medical Director. All he gave a rats #@#$ about was how the rank structure would be laid out and what would we call our EMS staff. Things like updated EMS protocols and training were on the back burner. I'm glad he's gone. The department will be in a better position now.

  • Anonymous

    Dern the echo still resonates in the top floor of Grimke "it is a systemic problem" this was the writing on the wall for Doc. He was an outsider. his license was more important than he was. The kool aide wore off when he saw his license circling the bowl. The poor slobs taking ambulance calls and not wanting to care fore some one who did not even call them.Driving 22 miles an hour all the way to the scene. Hoping the medic unit will get there first,or the supervisor. Oh well I do not have to treat em they need ALS not BLS. Oh I forgot you do not read that DOH card you just toss it in that red locker and only drag it out when you go to the academy. To the primarily fire oriented folks in DC do not drink the kool aide before they get on the Ambulance. They get on the scene and violate the patients rights and tell folks "he is a frequent flyer". Gee how many times a day does this happen in DC?
    ahh shucks I just have no Idea of what I am saying. Oh the best quote is the Doc was allowed to what he could! ^^