- May 9, 2008, 6:58 AM
Ellsworth “Dutch” Kuhlman, the hospital executive who in 1972 founded the Flight for Life medical airlift program at Denver’s St. Anthony Hospital, died October 31 of respiratory failure. He was 84. Kuhlman began the program while he was president and executive director of St. Anthony. He envisioned a medical air evacuation program similar to military medical airlifts during the Vietnam War. St. Anthony built a rooftop helipad and launched the program on Oct. 12, 1972, with a bright-orange Aerospatiale Alouette II, two pilots and six flight nurses. At about the same time, pioneering shock/trauma physician Dr. R. Adams Cowley was establishing the nation’s other groundbreaking aeromedical service in Baltimore, setting up a statewide network of EMS-capable helicopters operated by the Maryland State Police, differing from the St. Anthony’s operation by using a fleet of rotorcraft (Bell JetRangers in those days) operated by police-pilots with law enforcement as their primary mission and medevac as their secondary task.