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Commitment to Excellence: Meet the 2019 National EMS Awards of Excellence Winners

NAEMT and EMS World are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019 National EMS Awards of Excellence. The awards will be presented during the NAEMT’s General Membership Meeting and during the opening ceremonies of EMS World Expo October 14–18 in New Orleans. We congratulate the following recipients and recognize their outstanding contributions to the EMS profession and the patients they serve.

2019 Dick Ferneau Career EMS Service of the Year, sponsored by Ferno: San Antonio Fire Department EMS

Doing What’s Right: For the San Antonio Fire Department, excellence in EMS is more than a simple catchphrase

The San Antonio Fire Department’s Division of Emergency Medical Services is an innovative organization that’s developed and deployed multiple progressive lifesaving and health-preserving prehospital programs. These range from deploying whole blood to an entire metropolitan city to police navigation of behavioral health patients away from emergency departments and to more appropriate facilities.

SAFD EMS represents a leading edge not just for EMS but for all of healthcare, according to deputy medical director C.J. Winckler, MD. “We have so many smart, intelligent, and capable EMTs and paramedics, many of whom have advanced degrees,” says Winckler, who has been with SAFD for three years. “The culture was already set up for us to be the best EMS system in the country. All Dr. Miramontes and I had to do was implement programs to make that happen.”

David Miramontes, MD, is a firefighter, ICU nurse, and flight physician who became SAFD’s medical director five years ago. Winckler is a former field medic with a special-operations background. Their organization serves about 1.5 million residents of San Antonio, responding to more than 160,000 annual EMS calls with 400 personnel on 43 dual-paramedic MICU ambulances. There are 10 MIH paramedics that serve the city’s most vulnerable patients, and multiple other county, regional, and state missions SAFD EMS serves.

Less than 10 years ago, the department carried fewer than 10 medications. But leaders and providers alike were ready to make it something more. “When we got here the culture was ready to go forward with any cutting-edge medicine, research, and programs we had in mind,” Winckler says. “The fuel was there. We just lit the spark and boom, it took off.”

Some of the department’s programs include:

  • Prehospital whole blood transfusion capability citywide: In October 2018 SAFD EMS became the first metropolitan EMS system in the world to offer all patients whole blood as a treatment for hemorrhagic shock; 
  • A prehospital medical screening tool for behavioral health patients that allows police to transport those cleared directly to psychiatric care. To develop the program, SAFD EMS and UT Health San Antonio’s Office of the Medical Director partnered with the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council, Southwest Texas Crisis Collaborative, U.S. Army Medical Command, San Antonio Police Department, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, all 16 of San Antonio’s public and private psychiatric hospitals, and multiple school and municipal law enforcement agencies; 
  • A wildland firefighter force-protection team that deploys advanced-practice paramedics to large wildland fires in the state; 
  • A prehospital ECMO CPR activation program for CPR patients found in shockable rhythms;
  • Multiagency tactical law enforcement force protection; 
  • A prehospital infant safe sleep initiative to recognize, report, and rectify unsafe sleep environments;
  • Mobile integrated healthcare programs that involve partnerships with hospice agencies to decrease hospice revocations and unnecessary transports to EDs; 
  • An active EMS research division that has produced multiple prehospital articles and award-winning research; 
  • A paramedic-staffed acute-care station located in the largest homeless shelter in Texas; 
  • A unique sepsis triage protocol that identifies patients at risk for sepsis or in septic shock by use of EtCO2 instead of temperature; 
  • A sepsis-alert system to make sure patients have rooms available and can be treated immediately at hospitals; 
  • An LVO identification protocol to allow medics to bypass primary stroke centers and take patients straight to comprehensive stroke centers; 
  • Apps for customized medication references and clinical operating guidelines to decrease errors in treatment and dosing. 

2019 Volunteer EMS Service of the Year, sponsored by ZOLL: Princess Anne Courthouse Volunteer Rescue Squad, Virginia Beach, Va. 

Extended Family: The Princess Anne Courthouse Volunteer Rescue Squad stays strong in the wake of adversity

Since 1947 Virginia’s Princess Anne Courthouse Volunteer Rescue Squad (PACHVRS) has served the emergency medical needs of the Princess Anne, General Booth, Redmill, and Salem areas of Virginia Beach. The city is home to a major military population along with civilian residents; these combine for a year-round permanent population of 453,000. PACHVRS is one of 10 volunteer rescue squads that provide EMS response to Virginia Beach.

PACHVRS’ 110 operational/administrative members provide approximately 50,000 volunteer hours annually to keep Virginia Beach residents safe. The volunteer EMS unit fields a fleet of four ALS-equipped ambulances (though one needs to be replaced after being stolen and wrecked). The volunteers staff one ALS-equipped ambulance at each of two stations each shift. Collectively they answer about 5,000 calls a year. In addition to EMS response, PACHVRS personnel provide medical assistance at major public events and local attractions.

In addition to the hours they provide annually to Virginia Beach, PACHVRS’ volunteer members also donate time to connect with the community. This outreach includes safety/first aid training at schools and civic organizations, plus Stop the Bleed education and CPR certification courses for the public. PACHVRS also stages two children-oriented holiday events every year and hosts regular station tours.

Beyond serving the Virginia Beach community, PACHVRS works hard to support its own people. “A core concept at PACHVRS is that the squad should function as an extended family for each member,” says Trevor M. Kirk, NRP, chair of the PACHVRS board of directors. 

A case in point: Earlier this year one new PACHVRS member was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and required time off work that exceeded their accrued paid vacation time. “PACHVRS members saw a family member in need and immediately stepped up,” says Kirk. “They began selling #CaitlynStrong bracelets to help the member offset personal expenses created by income shortfalls due to time lost at work because of ongoing treatment appointments and medical expenses.”

It has been a difficult year for PACHVRS. Two of its units were first at the scene of the May 31 Virginia Beach active-shooter incident in which 12 people were killed. In a sad twist of fate, “PACHVRS’ signature blue ambulances soon became the leading image of local and national newscasts,” says Kirk. 

“On June 2, 30-plus members gathered at PACHVRS’ home station (the Virginia Beach Municipal Center fire/EMS station) and took the short walk to the memorial site to pay respects as individuals and as a squad. Afterward they gathered at a local eatery for dinner, for the sake of spending time together and to appreciate each other’s company while we had the chance.”

Despite incidents like May’s mass shooting, PACHVRS’ volunteers remain dedicated to serving local residents.

“We join the rest of the city of Virginia Beach in making sure Virginia Beach will not be remembered as a place of violence but as a place of unwavering support and love for our community,” says Kirk. “The horrific events of that Friday afternoon will not define us.”

2019 NAEMT/Nasco Paramedic of the Year, sponsored by Nasco: Debby Carscallen, Moscow (Idaho) Volunteer Fire Department

A Champion of Safety and Well-Being: The year’s top medic is a coach, leader, teacher, and mentor

Debby Carscallen is a paramedic for the Moscow Volunteer Fire Department in Idaho. She was nominated by Pam Rogers, a coworker in Carscallen’s volunteer roles as a firefighter, paramedic, police officer, and now EMS division chief for the city of Moscow. 

“[Debby] is an incredible and valuable member of our community and an outstanding paramedic,” says Rogers. 

Carscallen is recognized as a coach, teacher, leader, mentor, and champion of the physical safety and emotional well-being of crews. She has improved the department’s onboarding process, and many volunteers have advanced to pursue careers in EMS. She recruited volunteers to help raise funds to purchase AEDs for all schools and police vehicles in the community. She is an advocate for CPR and Stop the Bleed classes and inspires others to become advocates for community education. 

“Debby is a paramedic whose purpose and focus are to serve her community and patients,” says Nicole Wheaton, RN, of the city’s Gritman Medical Center. She frequently spends evenings helping EMS agencies in small, rural communities conduct training. She is also working to create a peer support group to assist and advocate for the mental health of the first responder community. 

2019 NAEMT/Bound Tree EMS Medical Director of the Year, sponsored by Bound Tree Medical: Michael Dailey, Albany, N.Y.

A Voice for Clinical Improvement: For the year’s top medical director, every moment counts

Michael Dailey, MD, FACEP, FAEMS, is the regional EMS medical director for REMO (Regional Emergency Medical Organization), which serves a six-county region surrounding Albany, N.Y., with a population of close to one million people, and also medical director for a dozen other EMS agencies. He is a member of multiple national and state organizations and has been a strong voice locally, playing an active role in protocol and systems development. 

Nominators Luke Duncan, MD, and Steven Kroll, MHA, EMT, say Dailey “has been one of the most significant and impactful EMS physicians and medical directors in New York.” Dailey is credited with helping agencies advance clinical improvement and excellence and mentoring EMS leaders who struggle with sustainability and clinical issues. 

“Mike uses every precious moment to get something done,” Duncan and Kroll say. His strength has been in motivating groups of interested parties to get involved and advance important causes, and he leads them to tackle challenge after challenge together.

As chief of the Division of Prehospital and Operational Medicine and professor of emergency medicine at Albany Medical Center, Dailey educates many young physicians to become EMS leaders. Jason Cohen, DO, chief medical officer of Boston MedFlight, says, “Dr. Dailey is devoted, fair, competent, equitable, compassionate, and inspiring. He helps others and communities without pretense, working tirelessly to make things better for our patients and our profession.”

“I am honored and humbled to be recognized as the NAEMT EMS Medical Director of the Year,” says Dailey. “A medical director’s success is determined by the people around them—I work with amazing people. I will be accepting the award on behalf of the members of the REMO medical advisory committee, New York State Collaborative Protocols Committee, and the EMS providers of the Hudson Mohawk Region. This award really reflects the EMS professionals, both paid and unpaid, who work together every day to make our systems better for our patients.”

2019 NAEMT/Jones & Bartlett Learning EMS Educator of the Year, sponsored by Jones & Bartlett Learning: Melissa Stuive, Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, Tex.

The Skills to Succeed: A perfect paramedic pass rate is just one of this top educator’s achievements

Melissa Stuive is the EMS program director at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Tex., sits on the Education Committee of the Texas Governor’s Emergency Trauma Advisory Council, and also serves as Education Committee chair for the Coastal Bend Regional Advisory Council. 

Stuive has served as a question writer for the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians and was able to significantly improve her college’s paramedic program pass rates to 100%. 

“Melissa has demonstrated time and again her dedication and commitment to the success of Del Mar’s public safety and EMS program, as well as to each student engaged in the program,” says Ricardo Quintero, deputy chief of the Corpus Christi Fire Department. 

Stuive directed the effort to achieve accreditation to ensure quality instruction was delivered to every student. She introduced technology and improvements that gave students the resources to become skilled EMTs. Former student Frank Funke notes, “Melissa sets her students up with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. She has built relationships in our area with her students going into the field and clinical work.”

Stuive continues to work on her own professional development and is completing her EdD. “Her influence in the lives of practicing EMTs and paramedics cannot be emphasized enough,” says Roberto Ruiz, an EMS instructor under her supervision.

2019 NAEMT/Braun Industries EMT of the Year, sponsored by Braun Industries: Freya Whalen, CoxHealth, Springfield, Mo. 

Passionate About Knowledge: The 2019 EMT of the Year is driven to provide the best healing experience possible

Freya Whalen is an EMT for CoxHealth in Springfield, Mo. She was nominated by her colleague Aerla McCoy, who says, “Freya is honest and genuinely compassionate to her patients, making them feel taken care of. She has a drive to make the patient experience the best healing experience possible. She is a shining example of an EMT.” 

Whalen is a volunteer fire lieutenant and EMT for a hospital-based 9-1-1 and transfer service. She previously received Missouri’s 2018 Kenneth E. Cole Memorial EMT-B of the Year Award. Freya is also an instructor and trains peers in the fire and EMS services. 

Whalen is passionate about passing knowledge to the next generation of EMTs. She is an EMT field training officer, providing prehospital training for newly hired and student EMTs. Her goal, she says, is to go beyond the textbook and locate needs in the emergency medical service industry. She educates the community in CPR, bleeding control, AED use, and injury prevention and safety. She has been an advocate for child safety, EMS practitioner safety and resilience, and patient care. 

Quoted in a local publication, Whalen says, “In healthcare, we are given a rare opportunity to be there for someone in their darkest time and help them. Be it big or small, the things we do and say are important.” 

2019 NAEMT/North American Rescue Military Medic of the Year, sponsored by North American Rescue: HM1 Kenneth Russell, Acting Medical Chief, Company M, 3rd Marine Raider Battalion

A Top Medical and Tactical Performer: Military medic winner is a leader, trainer, mentor, and subject matter expert

HM1 Kenneth Russell is a special operations independent duty corpsman currently serving as the acting medical chief and lead petty officer for Company M, 3rd Marine Raider Battalion. 

Serving the U.S. Navy for the past seven years, Russell has deployed with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in Okinawa, Japan, as well as serving two overseas tours to Africa with Marines special operations teams. He is a successful leader, trainer, mentor and subject matter expert. “HM1 Russell is a top performer within Marine Special Operations Command,” says HMCS Michael J. Mason. 

Russell was awarded the prestigious MARSOC Luke Milam Excellence Award in 2019 for his abilities as both a medical professional and a tactical leader. He led a responding joint Department of Defense team of more than 30 personnel in the care of 21 multisystem trauma patients that included prolonged evacuation times of up to six hours. 

In the past year Russell has answered his calling as an independent medical provider within a Special Operations Command. He has sought civilian education, achieved the height of his technical progression, earned the highest marks in fitness, and molded a diverse group of specialists into a team, leading to the best possible outcome in a combat zone for nearly two dozen casualties. 

“Without reservation, HM1 Russell represents the top candidate for nomination by 3rd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Special Operations Command,” adds Mason.

About the National EMS Awards of Excellence

Nominees for Service of the Year are scored on advances in EMS education; innovations in prehospital care and protocol development; medical community involvement; EMS system/program upgrades; worker safety and well-being; injury and illness prevention; and public education sponsorships. Nominees for Paramedic and EMT of the Year are scored on how the nominee provides superior patient care; is an advocate for patients and their families; works with peers to foster a positive work environment; demonstrates professionalism in interacting with patients, families, and medical professionals; and demonstrates a commitment to continuing education. Nominations for EMS Educator of the Year are scored on how the nominee demonstrates commitment to providing high-quality education; serves as an outstanding role model in the classroom and community; mentors students at all stages of their development; incorporates innovative approaches that enhance learning; and participates in the development of educational content that expands the body of EMS curriculum. Nominees for Military Medic of the Year are military medics (MOS-qualified active, reserve, or National Guard U.S. Army medic, Navy corpsman, or Air Force medic) who demonstrate excellence in military emergency medicine, with their primary role being theater patient care.


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