Joseph Waeckerle

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Joseph Farrell Waeckerle
Joe Waeckerle
Doctor Joe Waeckerle
Born June 20, 1946
Kansas City, Missouri
Residence Leawood, Kansas
Nationality American
Other names Joe
Alma mater University of Kansas (B.A.),
Chapman College
University of Missouri (M.D.)
University of Kansas Masters Program
Occupation Emergency Physician, Sports Physician
Board member of Diplomat, American Board of Emergency Medicine
Sports Medicine – American Board of Emergency Medicine

Joseph F. Waeckerle is an American physician specializing in Emergency and Sports medicine. He is best known to the public for directing the search and rescue efforts at the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse in Kansas City, Missouri on July 17, 1981. He is currently Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Medicine and Editor Emeritus of Annals of Emergency Medicine.[1] He previously served as Chief Medical Officer for the Office of Homeland Security, State of Missouri and Medical Officer for the Kansas City Division of the FBI.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Waeckerle was born June 20, 1946 in Kansas City, Missouri and graduated from Rockhurst High School in 1964. He has had a lifelong relationship with Rockhurst, volunteering his medical services to the school's sports teams.[2]


He obtained a B.A. from the University of Kansas in 1968, spending a semester at Chapman University's World Campus Afloat program, and his M.D. from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri in 1972.

Medical career[edit]


In 1972 he served his first year as an Orthopedic Resident at Akron City Hospital in Akron, Ohio, then the next two years as an Emergency Medicine Resident at Kansas City General Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, becoming Chief Resident and helping to establish Kansas City's Emergency Medical Services system. He founded the Emergency Medicine Residents' Association (EMRA) in 1974.[3] He also became a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)[4] and the University Association of Emergency Medicine (UAEM) in 1974.

Emergency medicine[edit]

Dr. Waeckerle's career in Emergency Medicine began in 1973 when he was selected to be a member of the first Emergency Medicine residency class at Kansas City General Hospital. During his residency he was selected the first Chief Resident and became very active in establishing the Emergency Medical Services system of Kansas City, Mo. He subsequently served as its first Medical Director. Dr. Waeckerle founded the Emergency Medicine Residency Association (EMRA) in 1974 which represents emergency medicine residents to all major organizations within the specialty and other organizations in the house of medicine. He became a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the University Association of Emergency Medicine (UAEM – now the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine SAEM) in 1974. He represented EMRA on the Executive Council of UAEM and was very active resident on various committees for ACEP including the College Issues and Planning and Scientific Meetings Committees.

After completion of his residency in 1975 he joined the faculty of his residency program and continued his work with the EMS system and the major organizations in Emergency Medicine. He was board certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) in 1980 with the first class of Diplomats. Subsequently, he became very active with ABEM as an examiner, Team Leader for examiners, Committee member and one of two representatives for the development of Guidelines for Certification in Sports Medicine. He received his Certificate of Added Qualifications in Sports Medicine through the ABEM examination process. He continued active service to ACEP, SAEM, Society of Critical Care Medicine, Liaison Residency Endorsement Committee of the AMA, and Emergency Medicine Foundation. He focused on continuing medical education, research, wellness, wound care, and scientific meetings activities. He ultimately served as President for the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine; Director, Board of Directors, of the American College of Emergency Physicians; and Director, Board of Directors, Emergency Medicine Foundation.

Sports medicine[edit]

Waeckerle's first experience in Sports Medicine was as medical officer for Rugby football at the local, regional, national and international levels. He served as the team physician for the Kansas City Blues Rugby Club,[5] chief medical officer for the Western United States Rugby Union and medical officer for the United States Rugby Union.

He has been very active in Special Olympics of Kansas and International Special Olympics. He was the medical officer and a member of the Executive Committee for Special Olympics of Kansas for a number of years. In addition, he served as a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of International Special Olympics during which time he was the Chief Medical Officer for the Special Olympics Delegation to the Games of the XXIV Olympiad in Seoul, Korea. He was a member of the United States Olympic Committee, Sports Medicine Division, and Committee on Disabled Athletes as well.

He has served as a team physician for Big Brother and Big Sisters Annual High School All Star Football Game, the Kansas City Marathon and Kansas City Triathlon chief physician, team physician for the University of Missouri at Kansas City and team physician for Rockhurst High School.

Finally, Dr. Waeckerle was the first emergency physician to be a team physician for the NFL as the team physician in Emergency Medicine and Sports Medicine for the Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, invited to do so in 1990. He continued in that role until 2010. He has also served the NFL as a member of the Committee on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury from 1995 until 2009 when that committee was retired. He was then appointed to the new committee, Head, Neck and Spine Injury Committee of the NFL. He also served on the NFL's Committee on Grants and the NFL's Committee on the Spine Injured Athlete. During his tenure, the various committees have made significant contributions to the peer-reviewed literature in mild traumatic brain injury as well as major white papers for NFL team physicians and sports medicine physicians and granting funds to worthy researchers interested in sports medicine.

In 2009, Dr. Waeckerle was invited to be a member of the NFL Players Association Mackey/White Traumatic Brain Injury Committee.[2] He is the only physician to be invited to serve on both the NFL and NFL Players Association committees on traumatic brain injuries.

In addition to publishing multiple studies on concussions in athletes he has also published studies on cardio-metabolic syndrome in professional football players and baseball players.

Disaster medicine[edit]

Dr. Waeckerle has testified before the United States Congress on Domestic Preparedness issues multiple times. He has lectured and published extensively in the field of disaster medicine and domestic preparedness.

His experience directing the response at the Hyatt collapse has made him a leading authority on planning the response to disasters and domestic preparedness. He was Official Liaison in Disaster Medicine for the American College of Emergency Physicians. He chaired the Task Force on Domestic Preparedness Against Weapons of Mass Destruction for the Office of Emergency Preparedness, Department of Health and Human Services.

He was invited by the Department of Defense to participate in the Defense Science Board's Task Force on Defense Against Biological Weapons and by the Veterans Hospital Administration to serve on the Technical Advisory Committee on Domestic Preparedness. He served as a member of the Roundtable on Emergency Preparedness, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations.

The Hyatt Regency walkway collapse[edit]

On July 17, 1981 Waeckerle had completed an eleven-hour shift in an emergency room, and was preparing for rugby season by running eleven flights of stairs at Baptist Medical Center[6] and was heading home when he received a telephone call from the Emergency Management Service dispatcher that "the roof had collapsed" at the Hyatt Regency hotel.[7] When he arrived at the Hyatt twelve minutes after the collapse, he started examining patients outside of the hotel, when he was directed into the hotel by a paramedic and started directing the triage, established a makeshift morgue in a ground floor exhibition area [8] and directing the ambulatory out of the lobby area. Periodically, Waeckerle would whistle to silence all the rescue work to locate buried survivors.[6] Some who were mortally injured but still conscious were given pain medicine and told they were going to die.[7]

Editorial career[edit]

Dr. Waeckerle also became very active in clinical research and publishing. He began to publish and was appointed as a reviewer for the Journal American College of Emergency Physicians, the official journal of American College of Emergency Physicians and University Association of Emergency Medicine. Over the years he served the Journal, now Annals of Emergency Medicine, as a reviewer, Editorial Board member, Section Editor, Associate Editor and was appointed Editor in Chief in 1989. He remained in that position until he resigned in 2002 when he became Editor Emeritus. He has been an active reviewer for the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Medical Journal and was on the editorial board of Urban Medicine, Emergindex, and The Physician and Sports Medicine. He has continued to do clinical research and has published extensively in the fields of Emergency Medicine, Sports Medicine and Disaster Medicine.

Honors and awards[edit]

Lederle Pharmacy Faculty Award for "The Clinical Pharmacist in the Emergency Department," 1976

First Responder Award, American Trauma Society, In recognition of heroic efforts as the Chief Medical Officer for rescue/triage of the Hyatt skywalk collapse, 1982

Fellow, American College of Emergency Physicians, 1982–present

Commendation for Dedicated Service, Council of the American College of Emergency Physicians, 1984

Award for Outstanding Service, University Association for Emergency Medicine, 1985

University Association for Emergency Medicine – Micromedex Best Clinical Science Paper Award, "A Prospective Study Identifying the Efficacy of Clinical Findings and the Sensitivity of Radiographic Findings in Carpal Navicular Fractures," presented at the University Association for Emergency Medicine Annual Scientific Meeting, May, 1986

"1987 Teacher of the Year," Goppert Family Practice Residency, Baptist Medical Center, 1987

Honorary Member, Emergency Medicine Foundation, 1990

Governors Salute to Excellence, State of Maryland for Outstanding Humanitarian Effort for Citizens of Kuwait, 1991

Metropolitan Ambulance Service Trust – In recognition for dedicated service as a Trustee and Medical Director, 1991

Proclamation by Emanuel Cleaver, II, Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, that the 21st day of November 1991 is to be Dr. Joseph F. Waeckerle Day in Kansas City, Missouri to commemorate his years of devotion and service to improving patient care and saving lives, 1991

Life Member Emergency Medicine Residents Association, 1992

Joseph F. Waeckerle Founder's Award (First Annual) For extraordinary and lasting contribution Emergency Medicine Residents Association, 1992

Missouri Senate Resolution No. 789 In Recognition of Dedicated Service to his Fellow Citizens Missouri Senate, 1997

Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation Kansas City Division Medal of Service, 2002 Certificate of Appreciation, 1997

Ingram's Magazine Top Doctors of Kansas City, 2001

James D. Mills Outstanding Contribution to Emergency Medicine Award American College of Emergency Physicians, 2002

Leadership Award Society of Academic Emergency Medicine, 2004

Life Fellow American College of Emergency Physicians, 2005

Letter of Commendation, Robert S. Mueller, III, Director Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2007 and 2011

Emeritus Member Society of Academic Emergency Medicine, 2007

Hero of Emergency Medicine American College of Emergency Medicine, 2008

W. Kendall McNabney MD Lectureship Department of Emergency Medicine, Truman Medical Center University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Medicine, 2010

Commendation, Council of the American College of Emergency Physicians American College of Emergency Physicians, 2011


  1. ^ "Missouri Heroes of Emergency Medicine". Retrieved 20 December 2011. 
  2. ^ a b David Martin (September 14, 2011). "Former Chiefs doctor Joseph Waeckerle--a veteran of the NFL's concussion wars--is on a mission to protect young players". The Pitch. Kansas City. Retrieved January 15, 2011. 
  3. ^ "EMRA History". Emergency Medicine Residents' Association. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "Section Co-sponsors Commendation Resolution for Dr. Joe Waeckerle". American College of Emergency Physicians. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  5. ^ "Kansas City Blues Hall of Fame". Retrieved 20 December 2011. 
  6. ^ a b McGuire, Donna. "20 years later: Fatal disaster remains impossible to forget". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Friedman, Mark (2002). Everyday crisis management: how to think like an emergency physician. First Decision Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-9718452-0-6. 
  8. ^ The Associated Press Library of Disasters: Nuclear and Industrial Disasters. Grolier Academic Reference. Associated Press. 1997. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-7172-9176-2.