Dr. Peter Safar, a pioneer in emergency medicine who also was regarded as the father of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, died Sunday evening of cancer. He was 79.
Dr. Peter Safar, who died at his home in suburban Pittsburgh, was credited with establishing the country's first physician-staffed, multidisciplinary intensive care unit. He also developed the "ABCs of CPR," a lifesaving technique taught to everyone from surgeons to Boy Scouts.
"This was really a loss for mankind," said Dr. Patrick Kochanek, the director of Safar Center for Resuscitation Research at the University of Pittsburgh.
Born in 1924 in Vienna, Austria, Safar studied at the University of Vienna and Yale University before studying anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania. In the 1950s, Safar established anesthesiology departments in Peru and Baltimore, briefly joining the staff of Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Also in the 1950s, Safar developed a method of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation that he combined with chest compression, a rescue technique that had already been researched and documented by others. The result was a first-aid method that many people learn using a lifelike mannequin known as a Resusci-Anne doll.
Safar established the first intensive care unit in 1958 at the Baltimore City Hospital. There already were such units for specific ailments, but Safar established the modern ICU that most people are familiar with today.
In the 1960s, he was a founding members of the U.S. National Research Council's Committee on EMS. He also established guidelines for ambulance design and emergency medical technician and paramedic training. Safar stepped down as chairman of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's anesthesiology department in 1979 and went on to establish the International Resuscitation Research Center, which he ran until 1994. It later became the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research.
Safar's work with CPR was just one aspect of his goal of creating a system of care from accident scene to operating room. Most recently, Safar was studying if cooling the body just a few degrees can prevent brain damage in people who survive cardiac arrest but are left unconscious.
"This is a huge loss. Can you imagine what he would have come up with in the future?" said James E. Cottrell, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.