Colorado Street Medics: Memories of founder "Doc" Ron Rosen

Categories: News

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In this week's feature, "Medic!," we followed the Colorado Street Medics, a group of self-trained medical assistants who provide first aid at protests. The collective, which will soon be memorialized in museum form, owes its legacy to one man: Ron Rosen. Called "Doc" even before he trained in acupuncture and Chinese medicine, Rosen was known for his bold, dramatic and occasionally brash focus on street medicine. Below, some of Rosen's peers talk about his legacy.

Rosen died of a brain hemorrhage in 2007, but his reputation and his teachings continue to live on through modern street-medic traditions. And not just within the Colorado Street Medics: Whether they loved him or hated him -- people usually chose one of these extremes -- medics across the country and world took trainings with Rosen. We tracked down some of them, in addition to some of Rosen's Colorado predecessors, and asked for stories about Doc's contributions.

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"Doc" Ron Rosen.
Sophia Newman, 29, former medic for Chicago Action Medical:
There were a few different sides to Doc. I went with Doc to the Sundance Prayer Festival in South Dakota in 2005 when I was 23. It was the last time I talked to Doc. I was one of his street medics. He flew around and did trainings all over the place, and he did a training in Chicago. From there, once I met him, we started working together on trainings and built a curriculum and did this sort of generational-lineage thing.

One of the things Doc did for me was spend a lot of time acting as a mentor. He was into these things like Chinese medicine and more of a formal academic mentorship, where you could get some kind of formal credit. I never did that, but he helped me develop a formal street-medic training protocol when I was 21. We'd go back and forth for hours and hours via e-mail. This is rare for Doc, but he actually let me call the shots. He was very domineering and didn't like to hear no, but he realized that I was a better teacher for the experience and celebrated that for me.

But eventually, I got to the point where I was like, "I can't have this person in my life anymore because he's too destructive." He had trauma and had a lot of issues, no question about it. I also have PTSD, or I did, and I'm a survivor of violence, so I understood. I don't think it's particularly rare, if you're talking to a bunch of activists, to turn up someone with trauma. He was kind of a trauma sponge at some point and didn't know any other way to live. It wasn't like he was effectively hiding it. I realized I was on the same road and thought, "Well, let me get off of it." I can sort of contribute my current health to that lesson from him.

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Mark Manger
Many of Doc Rosen's street medic relics are featured in the street medic museum.
Scott Mechanic, 26, Chicago Action Medical:
Doc led my first street medic training in Chicago in April 2003. I probably thought he was pretty intense, and then I spent time with him in Miami at the FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas) protests. I've spent time now with a lot of other trainers, many of whom were trained by Doc, and he brought this emotional intensity to his basic street-medic trainings that nobody else really does. He's been at all these actions like Wounded Knee, where people were actually getting shot, so when he trained he was just like, "I know what you're going to see out there in the streets, and it hurts me so much to give you this knowledge." That's really what he felt. He had been in all these really, really intense experiences as a medic that most of us don't see. During training, he cried multiple times when he was reliving past traumas.

He used to charm people with these magic tricks, too, and they were great. The truth is that street medics as some sort of organized meeting probably would have happened without Doc, but I think that we would have lost that continuity between what we do now and the professional medical community. We'd also have less of the stronger collective structure, and thinks would be more loose.

Page down to read more memories of "Doc" Ron Rosen.

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