August 29, 2018
It is with tremendous sadness that International Trauma Life Support (ITLS) announces the passing of our founder and president, John Emory Campbell, MD, FACEP, of Alabama. Dr. Campbell passed away in his home on August 29, 2018 after a long illness. He was 75 years old.
Known worldwide for his groundbreaking work in developing prehospital trauma education, Dr. Campbell founded the Basic Trauma Life Support (BTLS) program in 1982. It was the first course and curriculum dedicated to prehospital trauma assessment and trauma care worldwide. Dr. Campbell conducted the first BTLS course at Southeast Alabama EMS System on August 23, 1982. The goal of the first BTLS course was to provide the student the knowledge and experience to recognize, assess and care for critical trauma patients and ensure timely transport to the emergency department. Students were taught to identify conditions requiring “load and go.” From its beginning, patient assessment has been the core of the BTLS/ITLS curriculum.
ITLS had humble beginnings in Alabama as a local course developed by Dr. Campbell for paramedics to learn the principles of Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) to improve the care provided to trauma patients. ITLS now is a worldwide organization offering 15 types of trauma courses and teaching more than 30,000 students annually in more than 40 countries across the globe. Dr. Campbell’s work has touched more than 750,000 trauma care providers worldwide since the program began and the millions of patients they care for.
From its very beginning, Dr. Campbell’s program was based on current research while maintaining a conservative and non-controversial approach. He wanted the course to be simple, practical, and short enough to be taught in two days. Dr. Campbell also recognized the importance of allowing the course to be adapted for regional differences among local EMS systems.
“I’m speechless to think of this and I can’t believe that this little course has come this far,” Dr. Campbell once said about the growth of ITLS worldwide. “It’s just an idea whose time had come, and I just happened to be, by accident, the one who was there when it started. It’s still as important now as it was then.”
Dr. Campbell leaves behind a legacy of unfailing dedication and excellence in trauma care. He will be missed by the thousands of students, instructors, colleagues and friends whose lives he touched, personally and professionally through the reach of ITLS training and education.
International Trauma Life Support will continue to advance Dr. Campbell’s mission of improving trauma care worldwide by continuing to develop innovative curricula, programs and services that are evidenced-based, flexible and assessment focused for trauma care providers and the patients they serve. The ITLS Board of Directors and Editorial Board will continue under the leadership of Board Chair Jonathan L. Epstein, MEMS, NRP, of Massachusetts, and Editor-in-Chief Roy L. Alson, MD, PhD, FACEP, of North Carolina.
Dr. Campbell is survived by his wife Linda, sons Casey and Jason, and nine grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Jackie.
Donations can be made directly to International Trauma Life Support, a global not-for-profit 501c(3) organization.