On January 22, 2013, in a crowded committee meeting room in the basement of the Colorado state capitol building, members of the EMS Association of Colorado, the president of the Colorado Chapter of ACEP, the president of the Colorado Chapter of the AMA and the deputy director for the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment all came together to testify in support of House Bill 13-1063.
The committee was the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee, and freshman Representative Leroy Garcia needed the committee’s approval of his very first piece of proposed legislation so it could move forward to a vote by the full House of Representatives before going through a similar process in the state Senate and eventually being signed into law.
Who is Rep. Garcia and just what was so important about his first proposed piece of legislation that it garnered such a heavy support from all spectrums of Colorado EMS? A newly elected state representative, Garcia, 31, is a part-time paramedic for AMR Pueblo and a full-time faculty member for the EMS training program at Pueblo Community College.
Garcia got his start in EMS like many folks—by accident. In 2000, the Marine Corps reservist was pursuing a nursing degree and looking for a summer elective when someone suggested an EMT course. “It turned out to be one of those fortuitous ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’ kind of things. I took the course and, as you can see, the EMS bug bit hard and deep,” Garcia says. So much so that the nursing student switched majors and began pursuing a degree in EMS.
“Like many area EMTs I worked part-time for American Medical Response (AMR) Pueblo while continuing my studies and meeting my Marine Corps obligations.” In 2003, Garcia—now an EMT—was in the middle of taking the paramedic training course when his Marine Corps unit was activated. Garcia withdrew from the program to serve six months in Iraq and Kuwait.
On his return, the paramedic program’s lead instructor, Randy Kuykendall, worked out a program with his former student to reintegrate and successfully resume his studies with the next paramedic class. The former Marine was successful and as a newly minted paramedic sought not one, but two full-time positions on graduation. The first was as a paramedic with AMR Pueblo. The second job resulted in his meeting, and ultimately marrying, his wife, Michelle.
Garcia’s second job was medical supervisor for the Pueblo County Jail, overseeing the medical staff who provided primary care for the jail’s inmates. He got to see both sides of the primary healthcare issue, from the prehospital and the institutional points of view. His wife went on to become a successful legislative aide, including serving for Colorado Rep. John Salazar and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.
Leroy eventually cut back his time on the ambulance to accept a full-time faculty position in the EMS training section at Pueblo Community College. Well, that and to marry Michelle, run for a position on the Pueblo City Council and pursue a master’s degree in organizational management. And then, “with support from my family and community, I decided to run for state representative,” he says.
The voters liked what the hard-working medic, EMS instructor and city councilman had to say and last November they selected him to be their representative in Denver. Being a state representative is only a part-time job; the legislature meets for four months of the year. Garcia plans to continue his employment as a part-time paramedic for AMR to keep his skills and certification up and as full-time faculty member at Pueblo Community College during the remainder of the year.
Critical Care Endorsement