Dr. James Dunford is Professor Emeritus of Emergency Medicine (EM). After completing a residency in Internal Medicine at UC San Diego in 1979, Jim joined the emergency medicine faculty in 1980 where he remained clinically active until 2015. He served as one of the original Life Flight helicopter crew (1980-1986), the first civilian aeromedical program in the nation staffed by physicians. In the mid-1980's he became the Medical Director of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, overseeing the Dispatch Center and hundreds of paramedics and EMT’s. Soon thereafter he established the UCSD Division of EMS and in 1988, founded and directed the highly respected UCSD EM Residency Program. From 1997-2018 he functioned as the City of San Diego’s first EMS Medical Director, where he helped shape the evolution of contemporary EMS care at the local, state, national and international level. The City of San Diego was the only California EMS system selected to participate in the NIH Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC). Jim’s EMS research ranged from consequential trials addressing the management of sudden cardiac arrest, major trauma, acute stroke, and heart attack to novel approaches to assist the community’s most vulnerable. As President of the Board of the American Heart Association, Jim led the development of San Diego’s regional systems of care for cardiac arrest (San Diego Project Heartbeat), heart attack (STEMI) and stroke and was the Western States’ Volunteer of the Year for his advocacy of systems of care for time-critical emergencies.
In 2000, he partnered with the San Diego Police Department to develop and analyze the Serial Inebriate Program (SIP) to assist homeless individuals with alcohol use disorder. For this work he subsequently received the 2006 U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness National Research Award. In 2008, Jim created the Resource Access Program (RAP), a novel community paramedic program to assist “superusers”. RAP proved to be a cost-saving, high-touch, high-tech approach that was selected by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as a model of innovation. In 2011, Jim partnered with the San Diego United Way to implement Project 25 to demonstrate the economic and medical advantages of “Housing First”. He championed SDFD’s early adoption of handheld, cloud-based electronic medical records and supported UCSD Department of Emergency Medicine’s successful pursuit of a $15M federal Beacon grant to develop San Diego’s health information exchange - the nation's first HIE capable of real-time, bi-directional EMS data exchange, a technology now being implemented statewide. To expand assistance to super-users of EMS 2012, Jim collaborated with 211 San Diego and Father Joe’s Village to win the first $1M Innovation Award offered by Alliance Healthcare Foundation, to create the San Diego Community Information Exchange (CIE) https://ciesandiego.org, now a national model for improving the coordination of community-based resources.
Jim has served as an emergency medicine expert at the National Quality Forum and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). He is the Immediate Past Chair of the California Commission on EMS, where he advocates for equitable care for individuals with behavioral health emergencies. In 2015 he received the Outstanding Contribution in EMS from the American College of Emergency Physicians. In 2018 he became the Medical Director of McAlister Institute, the region’s largest substance treatment program for Medi-Cal clients, assuming a similar role in 2020 for Signs of Life, addressing hearing-impaired individuals with SUD. In 2020, Jim received the UCSD Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship award for ongoing contributions to the community. He continues to teach, mentor, and collaborate with particular attention to the opioid crisis.