Meet the 22nd Annual Braun Industries/ZOLL Medical EMT/Paramedic of the Year
Most contest nominees feel honored to receive one nomination. This year's recipient of the Braun Industries/ZOLL Medical EMT/Paramedic of the Year Award was nominated five times, from as far away from her home in Hope, Alaska, as Texas and Washington, DC. When the same name appears on that many nominations, the selection committee sits up and takes notice, and Valerie DeFrance, EMT-P, is glad they did.
Valerie's work as an EMS professional includes her position as a founding member of the Hope-Sunrise EMS service--an all-volunteer nonprofit group which, according to Valerie, has never had more than a dozen responders to cover a community of 250 residents and 20 miles of a busy major highway. She entered EMS in 1984 after her brother died in a car crash two miles from home and the closest emergency care was 60 minutes away.
"In those days, a trooper was usually first sent to an accident to see if an ambulance was needed, so there were a lot of delays," she says. "I decided that was nonsense; we needed somebody local to respond."
Fortunately, that was a time when the region was looking to expand EMS, and Valerie stepped up--first as a student, then as an instructor. She progressed through the levels of EMT certification to paramedic course coordinator and served as president of the Kenai Peninsula EMS Council for seven years, in addition to being a member of numerous state and local committees and boards.
Since 1999, Valerie has owned and operated a website called the EMS House of DeFrance (www.defrance.org), and has operated the Emergency Medical Services Educational Resources website since 2000 (http://defrance.org/inst), which is an free online repository of instructional materials and multimedia presentations. She is also publisher of EMSNetwork News (www.emsnetwork.org), a free online site; webmistress for www.emsspeakers.org; and will become webmistress for the new National EMS Museum Foundation. She is a prolific writer and owner of numerous other specialty EMS websites.
In addition to the websites, Valerie has created a Pediatric Seat Belt Safety Program and a comic book series for children that teaches injury prevention and how to call 9-1-1, and helped develop software to help EMS services track, extrapolate and archive patient databases and statistics. She is a two-time recipient of Alaska's "First Lady Award for Volunteerism," from the governor's wife.
Recently, when a local EMS training program declared bankruptcy, Valerie volunteered her time and personal funds for six months to enable the 11 paramedic students to complete their training. This came at a time when her husband (who died in January) was ill and funds were scarce.
All of these accomplishments barely scratch the surface of Valerie's contribution to EMS, but you wouldn't hear it from her. This unassuming lady still thinks she's just "a small cog in the EMS wheel," as one of her supporters put it. What drives her to continue? "Knowing you can make a difference in the quality of people's lives," she says. "Anything you can do to send them home from the hospital in as close to the shape they were in before an illness or injury occurred is the name of the game for me."
Valerie will be recognized during the EMS EXPO opening keynote ceremony on October 11 in Orlando, FL. She will receive a $1,000 U.S. savings bond, a $200 EMS Bookstore gift certificate, and free travel, lodging and registration for EMS-EXPO.
Meet the winners of the EMS Magazine/NAEMT Gold Award
VOLUNTEER SERVICE: SLATERVILLE VOLUNTEER AMBULANCE, INC.
Slaterville Volunteer Ambulance Inc., located in the small upstate New York town of Slaterville Springs, consists of only 16 active providers, but their commitment to EMS care is huge, says squad member Beth Harrington. The group of two paramedics, three critical care technicians, three basic EMTs and eight drivers provide full ALS service 24/7, 365 days a year at absolutely no cost to patients.