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Union Pacific Community Ties Giving Program Helps Expand Capabilities of Tactical Medicine Team at Texas Tech Health El Paso

Updated: Jun 4

Division of Emergency Medical Services introduces hybrid program in response to modern challenges.

The Tactical Medicine program at Texas Tech Health El Paso continues to grow thanks to a grant from the Union Pacific Community Ties Giving Program.

The most recent $5,000 grant was used by the Division of Emergency Medical Services to obtain a portable ultrasound machine. The device will help diagnose internal bleeding during field operations by the Texas Tech El Paso Police Department.

The expanding Tactical Medicine program is essential for enhancing public safety and responding to modern emergency challenges.

Peace officers are often the first to enter harm’s way, making split decisions where lives are on the line. In these situations, having someone who understands medicine and police tactics can make a difference. However, while trained in first aid, most officers lack the training to provide advanced medical care in unsafe situations.

That is, until now.

Stephen Schwartfeger, M.D., the program's first fellow, is completing his field training with the Texas Tech El Paso Police Department. This is a major milestone for the two-year-old program, which includes training as a peace officer.

“Once commissioned, when I respond to emergency calls,” said Dr. Schwartfeger, “I’ll be responding as a police officer and a physician.”

Attached to the Texas Tech Police Department, he is a reserve officer, which is his next step in becoming a sworn peace officer with full police powers. He recently completed his Tactical Medicine Fellowship with Texas Tech Health El Paso’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) division in the Department of Emergency Medicine, a program designed to support high-risk law enforcement operations.

Over the past three decades, there’s been an increase in high-risk active events, encompassing national security threats, anti-terrorism activities, mass gatherings, and disaster response missions. Notably, incidents requiring the intervention of police tactical units have more than tripled. 

The surge in active events has highlighted a critical need for specialized prehospital care provided by tactical medicine teams. These specialists not only operate alongside local, state, and federal law

enforcement during high-risk situations but may themselves be sworn peace officers.

The Tactical Medicine program at Texas Tech Health El Paso includes a one-year fellowship to prepare the next generation of medical leaders in this emerging field. As part of this vanguard, Texas Tech Health El Paso is one of only three dedicated tactical medicine fellowship programs in the United States.

Dr. Schwartfeger was the first to participate in the university’s fellowship program. The transplanted New Zealander studied medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson, receiving his M.D. in 2019. He’s the first Foster School of Medicine fellow to complete peace officer training.

In addition to providing immediate medical care, he performs medical threat assessments and promotes the safety and health of law enforcement personnel.

“One of the big things we’re trying to do is integrate with the team so they’ll the highest level of trained medical personnel they can have,” said Dr. Schwartfeger, who is also on the Foster School of Medicine faculty. “At the same time, we train with them, working on maintaining and elevating their medical training to respond to life-threatening injuries in the field.”

Traditional emergency responders must wait in an active crime scene's “green zone” while officers secure the “hot zone.” Once commissioned, Dr. Schwartfeger can work the hot zone to deliver immediate care while exposed to ongoing threats like gunfire and explosions.

Many law enforcement agencies in the U.S. may find themselves responding to a threat in areas that lack access to timely emergency medical services. Having an officer who is also a physician will save lives.

“Becoming a sworn officer negates a lot of that red tape and hesitancy of agencies to have somebody there because we’re also trained in law enforcement as well as medical,” said Dr. Schwartfeger.

In addition to the Tactical Medicine fellowship, Texas Tech Health El Paso offers a one-year fellowship in Emergency Medical Services and a three-year medical residency in Emergency Medicine. During

their intern year, residents can gain firsthand experience in prehospital care by riding along with the El Paso Fire Department.

The difference between an EMS physician and a Tactical Medicine physician is easy to distinguish. EMS personnel attached to fire departments typically travel by ambulance. When sworn in as a police officer, Dr. Schwartfeger may arrive at an emergency scene with his fellow officers in an armored

tactical vehicle called a Bearcat, along with his medical equipment, tactical vest and helmet. 

The Department of Emergency Medicine provides tactical medicine fellows opportunities to pursue careers as tactical physicians with law enforcement agencies and search and rescue teams.

The program’s proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border offers residents and fellows many opportunities to work in a culturally diverse region and to collaborate with several federal and local law enforcement agencies.



At Texas Tech Health El Paso, we're committed to growing our own health care heroes and

changing the state of health care in our Borderplex. For more information about how to help, please contact or or visit


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