Scott S. Coyne, H’81, remembers his first days as a radiology resident on the MCV Campus. The enormity of the work had started to sink in when Fred Vines, M.D., former division chair of diagnostic radiology, offered these encouraging words.
“He said to me, ‘When you finish here, you’ll be able to handle anything — nothing will be hard for you.’ And he was 100 percent right.”
Housestaff alumnus Scott S. Coyne is the New York State EMS Physician of Excellence, recognized for the implementation of life-saving programs that have helped improve safety and resulted in statewide EMS protocol changes.
Coyne says that level of preparedness and training — “the intensity and immediacy of the clinical experience, going 24/7” — is what prepared him to ultimately spend a decade as Department of Radiology chair at then-named Northshore University Hospital at Glen Cove, now Northwell Health, a health network of 21 hospitals in New York and New Jersey where he worked for 19 years.
Now the chief surgeon and medical director for the Suffolk County Police Department on Long Island, Coyne was named the New York State EMS Physician of Excellence in October 2016.
The award recognizes a physician who has demonstrated exceptional dedication and experience in the pre-hospital care environment. Since joining the police department in 1992, Coyne implemented life-saving programs that have helped improve the safety and well-being of Suffolk residents, as well as resulted in statewide EMS protocol changes.
In 2008, he created the medical crisis action team, or MEDCAT. Made up of nearly 30 police officers trained as advanced life support paramedics or critical care EMTs with specialized training in combat medicine, Coyne calls MEDCAT a “medical SWAT team.”
Trained to deliver care under fire, the team operates under the principle of taking advantage of golden minutes to begin care at, what Coyne calls, the “point of wounding.” Five MEDCAT physicians complement the team.
“Our team is trained to deal with the threat and then immediately begin care of the injured,” Coyne says. “Many victims may only have minutes to survive with certain types of injuries. We are on call 24/7 and will respond as a special operations team to these types of situations.”
In 2015, Coyne and three MEDCAT officers received the International Association of Chiefs of Police Lifesaving Award for saving the life of a police officer who was gravely injured by fleeing felons.
“The officer was intentionally hit by a car as the felons pulled away and left to die in the street,” Coyne says. “Miraculously, we had three MEDCAT officers within a couple of miles of the crime scene.”
Coyne has trained thousands of police officers and emergency services personnel to respond in high-risk operations such as active shooter situations and has equipped all patrol officers with combat tourniquets to effectively respond to such incidents. He has maintained a high standard of police academy medical training, requiring all Suffolk County police officers to become certified EMTs before graduation.
“Most departments have a few EMTs but we actually have five weeks of EMT training built into our academy so that our police officers also are state-certified EMTs,” Coyne says.
In addition, he has certified 1,500 police officers to administer Narcan, a prescription medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses opioid overdoses.
“In the last four-and-a-half years, our officers have given Narcan 720 times,” Coyne says. In 2014, the U.S. Attorney General recognized Suffolk County’s Narcan program as a nationwide model for law enforcement.
Coyne readily shares his expertise beyond Suffolk County. In February, he served as keynote speaker at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine’s multidisciplinary trauma symposium “Creating Order out of Chaos.” He spoke on threat suppression, patient management and coordination of trauma care in a mass casualty incident and also led a separate workshop on the development of key principles of a hospital-based active shooter plan.
He says his training at a major trauma referral center was the foundation for his work in the field. “My fondest years really were at the Medical College of Virginia, not only for the premier training it offered, but also for the friendships and professional relationships I developed. It was absolutely one of the most important times in my life.”
Coyne returned to campus in 2016 to meet with Department of Radiology Chair Ann S. Fulcher, M’87, H’91, vice chairs Melvin J. Fratkin, M’64, H’68, F’69, and Mary Ann Turner, H’75, and professor emeritus Jaime Tisnado, M.D. Coyne also toured VCU Medical Center, including Main Hospital, which was under construction throughout the duration of his residency.
“I was overwhelmed at the growth of MCV into such an impressive state-of-the-art facility. MCV was always my first choice. I remember so clearly, as a student at Downstate medical school, when envelopes were handed out on Match Day and not knowing where life was going to take me. Acceptance at MCV was the best news I could have ever received. Little did I know that MCV would become such a cornerstone in my life.”
By Polly Roberts