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Commitment to Excellence: Meet the Winners of the 2020 National EMS Awards of Excellence

NAEMT and EMS World are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020 National EMS Awards of Excellence.

The awards will be presented during NAEMT’s General Membership Meeting and on the first day of the main conference at EMS World Expo, to be held Sept. 14–18 as a virtual event. Visit  

We congratulate the following recipients and recognize their outstanding contributions to the EMS profession and the patients they serve.


Sponsored by Ferno

Onslow County EMS, Jacksonville, N.C.

An Emerging National Leader

Rapid strides in recent years have propelled this county service to the top

Onslow County EMS, based in Jacksonville, N.C., is a paramedic-level public utility model EMS system in its 33rd year of service. It answers 23,000 calls a year and transports approximately 12,000 patients to seven different regional hospitals. The system has a full-time staff of 78 paramedics and EMTs and a complete staff of 113, including administration, relief, and support staff. 

Onslow County EMS has grown over the last three years to become a state and national leader in EMS. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and its three supporting bases are located in Onslow County. It is the first stop for marines beyond boot camp, where each must complete infantry school. Having a large contingent of young marines makes Onslow County the state’s youngest in median age, and with such a young population, significant trauma is more frequent than in most similar-size communities. Almost 60% of the call volume at Onslow County EMS is trauma-related, with more than a 1,000 leveled traumas a year. 

In 2018 OCEMS began focusing on how to reduce those numbers. EMS, along with the Naval Medical Center’s Level III trauma center, began teaching Stop the Bleed. More than 6,000 civilians have now completed the training, including teachers, business leaders, and all first responders. Every law enforcement officer in Onslow County now has a Stop the Bleed kit, and tourniquets and bleeding control are routinely begun prior to the arrival of EMS. 

In December 2019 EMS began utilizing low-titer O+ whole blood (LTOWB) for trauma and medical patients. Building on the San Antonio model, it implemented whole blood use on quick-response vehicles. Through mid-May crews had used LTOWB 15 times, with an 80% survival rate. 

OCEMS is in a prime position to provide training to Navy corpsmen prior to deployment overseas and the battlefield. Corpsmen from Camp Lejeune ride with OCEMS crews and are authorized to function at their NREMT certification level. The skills and experience taught to the corpsmen are deployable skills used routinely on the battlefield and across the globe. 

The partnership between the military and civilian organizations has been a highlight of the trauma program and made it a model program for the Department of Defense, U.S. Navy, and Defense Health Agency. In return OCEMS receives clinically sophisticated training from the many specialists at the Naval Medical Center and through their simulation programs. 

Started in 2017, OCEMS’ community paramedic program has built an opioid response and treatment program that connects overdose patients to recovery services. Patients who agree to recovery but cannot gain immediate access are evaluated for admission into the community paramedic suboxone program. This is a bridge to help substance abusers bridge until they can be admitted into medication-assisted treatment. OCEMS CPs were awarded an NIH pilot to evaluate the effectiveness of community paramedics administering suboxone to patients to prevent reoverdose and substance abuse while awaiting connection to recovery. This is the only known program in the United States where paramedics are administering suboxone and connecting patients to treatment. The program has connected 22 patients to MAT programs, of whom 78% stayed for 30 days. 

Onslow County EMS is recognized yearly as an AHA Mission Lifeline: Gold Plus system. It partners with area cardiac cath hospitals to ensure times meet the gold standard. Working with partners in Wilmington, it’s modified the MEND/RACE score to accurately identify patients most likely to need neurosurgical intervention or thrombectomy for stroke. 

The organization has embarked recently on a telehealth program loosely based on the Houston Fire Department ETHAN model. The COVID pandemic delayed the project, but it was expected to begin this summer.


Sponsored by EMS World

Sun City Center Emergency Squad, Sun City Center, Fla.

Seniors Helping Seniors

A senior community’s retired volunteers deliver the highest quality of service

Sun City Center is a senior community with approximately 30,000 residents in the winter, 22,000 in the summer. Its unique rescue organization, the Sun City Center Emergency Squad, consists mostly of retired residents—average age: 72. 

The Sun City Center Emergency Squad is the last all-volunteer, all-free BLS ambulance service in Florida. It has more than 400 volunteers, of whom approximately 140 are EMTs and EMRs. The squad has four ambulances and two wheelchair vans that provide transportation to medical appointments for residents who are wheelchair-bound. It averages 5,000 calls a year, with another 1,000 wheelchair van runs. Its annual budget of $450,000 is raised through fund drives and regular donations. The squad doesn’t accept insurance or use any tax monies—it is completely funded by the community.

The squad participates in all state and county EMS meetings, including the state Emergency Medical Services Advisory Committee, where it has served on the Communications Committee since 2011. On the county level it is active with Hillsborough County’s Emergency Medical Planning Council and Trauma Advisory Council. 

The squad has been an active leader in the community throughout its 55-plus years. In the last four years, it has taken the lead in preparing the community for hurricane season and other disasters. In January 2020 Chief Mike Bardell met with local organizations and organized a “Disaster Planning for Homeowners” program attended by more than 800 residents.  

The squad was the first in the state on FirstNet, the emergency communications network for first responders. In addition Bardell created a local network with senior facilities: Each purchased a radio, to be maintained by the squad, for use in a disaster if land lines and cell towers are down.  

Community education efforts include:

  • Fall prevention—Due to the large number of fall patients in our community, the squad began providing fall-prevention programs in 2011. It has since made over 400 presentations. 
  • Stop the Bleed—The squad received a grant in 2016 to purchase training equipment and kits to offer Stop the Bleed training to local residents. It has provided training to more than 600 residents.
  • CPR—The squad’s CPR program has been ranked the best of Pasco Hernando College’s 14 CPR training arms. 
  • Community health symposia—Beginning in 2018 Bardell proposed and helped organize community health symposia on topics relevant to our senior community, such as heart health, diabetes, and stroke and brain health.
  • Community needs assessment—The squad has actively participated in an ongoing community needs assessment being conducted by the University of South Florida Institute for Government and Business. 

Hillsborough County commissioners recognized the squad in 2016 and again this year. In June 2013 it was selected by the Florida Council on Aging as the top EMS agency in the state for its service to seniors. In 1988 President George H.W. Bush recognized the squad as one of his “Points of Light.”


Sponsored by Nasco

Stephen Lincke, Wantagh, N.Y. 

‘A Standard for Others to Emulate’ 

EMS Capt. Stephen Lincke is a paramedic and 40-year member of the Wantagh Fire Department in New York. He had been a deputy chief for 34 years for the New York City Fire Department Bureau of EMS. 

Nominated by Joseph Pignataro on behalf of the department’s awards committee, Lincke is noted for delivering exceptional care to his patients and utilizing the latest EMS protocols. He is a patient advocate and supports his patients and their families through stressful situations, providing them with the information they need to make decisions about their healthcare. He leads two EMS squads and oversees training and supplies. He guides new members and ensures continuing education opportunities for all personnel. 

Lincke was appointed to the department’s COVID-19 task force for his experience in maintaining the supply chain, particularly for personnel protection, and his disaster management experience and resource coordination. He was recognized by the New York Department of Health for his leadership in EMS. State EMS Director Ryan Greenberg noted the recognition was for “professional performance invaluable to the EMS system” and for “setting a standard for others to emulate.”


Sponsored by Braun Industries

Jonathon Thatcher, South Rim, Utah 

‘What an EMT Should Be’

Jonathon Thatcher is an Advanced EMT for Tooele Army Depot Fire Department in Utah and serves as chair of the Tooele County EMS Council. He also works part-time for Mountain West Ambulance (MWA) and serves as the volunteer assistant fire chief for the Stockton Fire Department. 

Colleagues said Thatcher is a professional and constantly learning, growing, teaching, and evolving—through his leadership and great attitude, he continues to make EMS an amazing profession to be part of. 

Coworker Jase Connors’ nomination commends “Jonny” for being a leader in his community, caring for others, and being knowledgeable in his role. When providing patient care, he advocates for his patients. He is compassionate and calming to all around him. He trains regularly and works with others to promote the highest levels of care. He also participates in a program for children in need. 

“Jonathon is an excellent example of what an EMT should be and sets a high standard,” said Connors. 


Sponsored by Bound Tree Medical

Paul Pepe, MD, MPH, Dallas, Tex.

A Generation’s Most Accomplished

Paul Pepe, MD, MPH, is medical director for numerous EMS agencies in Texas and Florida, and coordinator of the Metropolitan EMS Medical Directors (“Eagles”) Global Alliance, which impacts 137 million people throughout the world. Pepe was nominated by dozens of esteemed colleagues for his tireless efforts over four decades in advocating for patients, advancing science in EMS, creating educational innovations and supporting every EMS practitioner he has supervised or worked beside. Known for hundreds of groundbreaking research publications in critical care, cardiac arrest and EMS system innovation, nominators cited his leadership role during the COVID-19 crisis. Rapidly ascertaining boots-on-the-ground intel across the globe and disseminating knowledge to EMS leaders worldwide, he provided guidance to colleagues responsible for the EMS response for the tens of millions within their jurisdictions. Pepe founded the National Association of EMS Physicians and served as its first elected president (1987–1990). In 2005, he was cited as “the most accomplished emergency medical services physician of our generation” when receiving his lifetime achievement award from the American College of Emergency Physicians. For his current award, nominators emphasized, “Dr. Pepe continues to have an innate ability to create order out of chaos and redirect us into a more pragmatic, productive focus. By guiding us to research better ways to save lives, improve operations and advance the specialty of EMS, he has elevated our stature in the eyes of the scientific world, global leaders and the public.” 


Sponsored by Jones & Bartlett Learning

Scott DeBoer, CCRN, Dyer, Ind. 

Head and Shoulders Above the Rest

Scott DeBoer, RN, MSN, CEN, CPEN, CCRN, CFRN, EMT-P, is a critical care transport nurse and the cofounder, with his medic wife, Lisa, of Pedi-Ed-Trics Emergency Medical Solutions. He applies over 30 years of experience into his engaging seminars and hands-on skills labs, which have been presented in all 50 states and seven countries. His nomination noted, “He has taught well over 1,000 programs all over the world, written nine EMS-related books, coauthored over 100 emergency journal articles, been the subject of multiple nightly news television pieces because of his unique hands-on labs for EMS, and teaches audiences up to the thousands.” A colleague presenting with Scott commented that very few educators approach a single presentation with such a degree of enthusiasm and dedication. Another colleague wrote that Scott has the ultimate combination of intellect and educational background coupled with a unique presentation style that makes him stand head and shoulders above the rest. His work ethic and dedication to providing excellent educational opportunities for EMS are superb. Scott likes to say that he “doesn’t like taking care of big people” and as such, helping medics and nurses around the world learn better ways to care for kids has been his career focus and passion.


Sponsored by North American Rescue

Colleen Mitchell, Senior Airman, EMT, U.S. Air Force, Land O’Lakes, Fla.

‘A True American Hero’ 

Colleen Mitchell, Senior Airman, EMT, embodies all the principles this award represents. She faced deadly, chaotic circumstances with courage, compassion, and determination in an effort to save the lives of others. She conducted the first-ever Tactical Combat Casualty Care course in her area of responsibility, teaching eight classes and ensuring 66 Department of Defense and host nation personnel were educated on emergent lifesaving medical care procedures. 

During an attack earlier this year, Mitchell took control of the scene, quickly assessed and executed critical lifesaving actions that cared for two severely wounded individuals, and brought dignity and respect for the deceased. Her professionalism, proactiveness, and calm under pressure served her and those she directed well during a time of crisis. From the accounts of the lead operator at the time of the attack to the surgeon general of the United States Air Force, Mitchell’s actions demonstrated the best of what our emergency medical technicians are trained to do in time of crisis. 

Nominator Col. Michael D. Foutch wrote, “I am incredibly humbled by her performance under fire, in the act of triage, treatment, care management, and direction of those far above her pay grade to stabilize the situation. During her deployment, and particularly on the day in question, she was the best medic anyone could hope for, and she is without question a true American hero.” 


Sponsored by Dynarex

Kathy Lint

Influential, Empathetic, and Humble

Kathy Lint is a veteran of the armed forces as well as a veteran paramedic. She has devoted her entire adult life to service to others, including around 35 years in EMS. She currently serves with Priority One EMS outside Pittsburgh. 

A few years ago Lint was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through the chemo and radiation, she continued to work as a paramedic—through weakness, lethargy, hair loss, and not to mention the nausea and vomiting associated with her diagnosis. 

In addition to being an excellent paramedic, Lint is also an instructor who trains and prepares future prehospital providers. “I’ve not known Kathy very long; I’ve only been in EMS two years,” said colleague Kristan Niklas, EMT, who nominated her. “She has made life-impacting changes to me and others around her. In the last six months of being her dedicated partner, I have seen her weep with patients, give her clothing to patients to keep them warm, grieve their loss, and celebrate their accomplishments (big and small). Kathy is a staple in the community she serves. I have personally had patients request her by name to be their provider. 

“When it comes to the future of EMS, I hope more people carry themselves as Kathy has carried herself through the years. I know her years are numbered in EMS; I know she has outlived most that have chosen this career path. I am grateful I have had the opportunity to work with the most influential, empathetic, and humble person. I would love for everyone to know just how amazing she is.”

About the National EMS Awards of Excellence

EMS World and NAEMT established the National EMS Awards of Excellence program to recognize outstanding achievement in the field. This esteemed program has become the gold standard of accomplishment in the EMS profession.

Nominees for the Service of the Year Awards are scored on the following: advances in EMS education and training; innovations in prehospital care and protocol development; medical community involvement; EMS system/program upgrades; worker safety and well-being programs; injury and illness-prevention projects; and public education project sponsorships the agency is involved in. 

Nominees for the Paramedic and EMT of the Year Awards are scored on how the nominee provides superior patient care; is an effective advocate for patients and their families; works with peers to foster a positive work environment; demonstrates professionalism in interacting with patients, their families, and other medical professionals; and demonstrates a commitment to continuing professional education.

Nominations for the EMS Educator of the Year Award are scored on how the nominee consistently demonstrates commitment to providing high-quality, professional education for EMS practitioners; serves as an outstanding role model for EMS practitioners in the classroom and community; effectively mentors EMS students at all stages of their professional development; introduces and incorporates innovative approaches and tools in the classroom, which enhance students’ learning experiences; and contributes and participates in the development of education content that expands the body of quality EMS curriculum.

Nominees for the Military Medic of the Year Award are recognized military medics (MOS-qualified active, reserve, or National Guard U.S. Army Medic, Navy Corpsman, or Air Force Medic) who demonstrate excellence in the performance of military emergency medicine, with their primary role being theater patient care.

Nominees for the First Responder Caring Award are scored on how the nominee exceeds the call of duty in the areas of patient care and outreach to the community they serve. 


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