The delegation of American EMS leaders and decision-makers who went to Israel numbered a dozen. It was arranged by former Illinois EMS director Leslee Stein-Spencer, RN, MS, who now oversees medical administration and regulatory compliance for the Chicago Fire Department, working with Israel's consulate to the midwestern U.S.
"The folks at the consulate and the Ministry of Health agreed that EMS was an important area for exchanging ideas," Stein-Spencer says. "For the trip they wanted people who were in policy-making positions within our region, who also had national exposure. I wanted a well-rounded group--not just EMS, but from across the healthcare disciplines. Everyone who went was someone I knew personally, and knew their level of participation and commitment."
The delegation included Stein-Spencer, who also serves as a program manager for the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO); her husband, Mike Spencer, retired assistant deputy chief paramedic for the Chicago Fire Department; CFD First Deputy Fire Commissioner Charles Stewart and his wife, Zandra, a school psychologist; Montana EMS Supervisor Jim DeTienne, NASEMSO's president-elect; Pennsylvania EMS Director Joe Schmider, chair of NASEMSO's Domestic Preparedness Committee; NASEMSO Program Manager Kathy Robinson, RN, EMT-P, a past president of the Emergency Nurses Association; Robert McCaughan, Pittsburgh EMS chief and chair of the International Association of EMS Chiefs' Metro Chiefs Section; Gary Wingrove, program manager with the North Central EMS Institute and director of government relations for Minnesota's Mayo Clinic Medical Transport; John Hick, MD, medical director for bioterrorism and disaster preparedness and assistant medical director for EMS at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis; Bernard Heilicser, DO, FACEP, medical director for the South Cook County EMS system in Illinois and also deputy commander and deputy medical director for the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team; and a reporter from EMS World Magazine.
Those are some titles you'd think could influence change. What they can bring back and apply, given the differing backdrop and contexts and interests of American EMS, will ultimately define the success of their mission.
"What we learned was significant. I've been to Israel several times, but I truly learned the most this time, looking at their preparedness and response activities," says Stein-Spencer. "It's so important for us in the United States to open up these types of relationships and be able to share experiences in emergency medical services. Many times it's a forgotten profession, and I think by going there and opening the door, there's so much we can learn from each other. I hope it doesn't end with our trip, and that more EMS people will be able to go over and learn from the Israelis and share what we can bring to the table as well."