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Dr. Peter Safar, 79; Pioneer of CPR Helped Set Up Intensive Care Units

August 07, 2003|From Associated Press

Dr. Peter Safar, a pioneer in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency medicine, has died. He was 79.

Safar died of cancer Sunday evening at his suburban Pittsburgh home.

In 1956, Safar developed a method of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation that he combined with chest compression, a rescue technique that had been researched and documented. The result was a first-aid method that many people learn using a lifelike mannequin known as a Resusci-Anne doll.

"He was a firm believer that it was something that the masses needed to learn," said Dr. Patrick Kochanek, the director of the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research at the University of Pittsburgh.

Safar's work with CPR was just one aspect of his goal of creating a system of care from accident scene to operating room.

"He wanted to prepare the people who show up at an accident scene first -- the passerby -- so they can sustain a victim until a paramedic arrives. And then, the paramedic cares for the patient until they reach the emergency room and so on," said Frank Poliafico, executive director of the AED Instructor Foundation, which helps those who teach CPR and automatic external defibrillator use.

Safar is also credited with establishing the country's first physician-staffed, multidisciplinary intensive care unit. Safar founded that unit at the Baltimore City Hospital in 1958, Kochanek said.

There already were such units for specific ailments, but Safar established the modern ICU that most people are familiar with today, he said.

Born in Vienna, Safar earned his medical degree at the University of Vienna. After completing his residency at Yale, he studied 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.

In the 1960s, he was a founding member of the U.S. National Research Council's panel on emergency medical services. He 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 is survived by his wife, Eva Safar; two sons; and five grandchildren.

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