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EMS Anniversaries: Meet the Resource Behind Medic One

2020 will certainly be a year to remember, but it wasn’t all bad. A number of significant EMS-related events, services, and associations marked important anniversaries during this fateful year. This series authored by Dan Casciato highlights these milestones. See the Related Content box for other installments.

In 2020 the Medic One Foundation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Seattle region’s famous Medic One system. The associated nonprofit organization helps it ensure and advance a level of prehospital emergency care that has become second to none.

Through fundraising, advocacy, and collaboration, it supports critical programs and initiatives that have a significant impact on the number of lives saved by the region’s Medic One emergency medical system.

Board President Brooks H. Simpson, of Pacific Rim Medical Systems, describes it as a remarkable story that Medic One and the Medic One Foundation have been working together for five decades.

“It’s an incredible accomplishment that we’ve been partners and excelled all these years,” he says. “The Medic One agencies have benefited from the funds we have been able to provide, which essentially cover the tuition of up to 24 medics each year. That was by design. Our primary mission, established by the founding fathers, Dr. Leonard Cobb and Chief Gordon Vickery, was to ensure the training program was always fully funded to maintain the medical integrity of the program. So from the very first class to this year’s 47th class, the funding for those paramedics has been through private donations and not a cost to the taxpayers.”

This independence is what has permitted Medic One to spend so much time on training medics, notes Simpson. Its medic program, developed in partnership with the University of Washington Medical School, is about twice as many hours as other training programs and is more patient-centered than classroom-centered.

“It’s remarkable to still see it intact 50 years later and still funded the same way,” says Simpson. “The medics never have to fear they will have a lesser program than those who came before them.”

As a funding vehicle, the Medic One Foundation has been able to gather funds from donors across the region. In addition to the primary mission of paying for tuition, it has contributed about $3 million to specific EMS research and $1 million in equipment grants in the region.

“That’s a big number, particularly when you look at EMS across the country—often it does not get the research dollars an institution like a medical school would,” says Simpson.

The equipment grants are reserved for underrepresented services that struggle in raising funds and may need an AED or two for their volunteer service or some additional training, backboards, or stair chairs.

“We ask that they apply for a grant, and it goes through an approval process,” explains Simpson. “Our equipment and research committees are made up of clinicians and medics who determine if that application grant is something worthwhile and fits within the mission.”

Over the years the Medic One Foundation has financially supported various unique programs such as PulsePoint, an app that notifies citizen responders when someone is having a heart attack nearby. Other milestones have included developing the first community CPR program in the nation back in the early 1970s and implementing telephone CPR instruction by 9-1-1 dispatchers.

“More recently we’ve been focused on supporting research efforts into high-performance CPR,” says Simpson. “We’re more than happy to listen to anybody’s pitch that will expand technology and change a practice in the EMS world. While that has been primarily in our region here, we’re certainly open to great ideas to expand our footprint beyond the region to help others.”

Simpson credits the longevity of the foundation to its small but nimble staff and board.

“We have a legacy of strong board members and a strong staff, particularly Jan Sprake, a well-known and strong executive director who’s been in philanthropy in both the public and private sectors for years,” says Simpson. “In addition, we have a strong support base here in the region among our community members. There are many people who continually offer to volunteer, whether it’s for IT needs, donor drives, galas, or special events. We’ve been very fortunate to have those long-term associations with volunteers.”

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Daniel Casciato is a freelance writer and social media consultant from Pittsburgh, Pa. He makes his living writing about health, law, social media, and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @danielcasciato

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