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Leadership in Action: The 2017 National EMS Awards of Excellence

Terry Bottjen
Ryan Houser
Jacob Ponczkowski
Ginny Renkiewicz
Allina EMS
Greenlawn FD EMS

The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) and EMS World are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2017 National EMS Awards of Excellence. The awards will be presented during NAEMT’s general membership meeting Oct. 17 in Las Vegas, and during EMS World Expo’s opening ceremony Oct. 18.

Nominees for the Paramedic and EMT of the Year Awards were 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. 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 that of theater patient care.

Nominations for the Educator of the Year Award were 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 in the community, effectively mentors EMS students at all stages of their professional development, introduces and incorporates innovative approaches and tools in the classroom, and contributes and participates in the development of EMS education content.

Nominees for the Service of the Year awards are scored on advances in EMS education and training in the agency, 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.

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

2017 NAEMT/Nasco Paramedic of the Year (sponsored by Nasco): Terry Bottjen, Faith, SD

Terry Bottjen is certified as a paramedic in South Dakota and nationally. He has served in EMS for 37 years in ground and air ambulance agencies and as an educator.

Bottjen has volunteered over 50,000 hours of service, earning him the South Dakota Governor’s Volunteer Award and the JCPenney Golden Rule Volunteer of the Year Award. He is also an experienced scuba rescue diver. Bottjen has received commendation letters from state and federal leaders and recognitions locally.

Through personal experience, Bottjen saw the challenges of EMS in remote areas, so he began his own volunteer first responder unit to more expediently transport patients.The service was headquartered in his home. At his own expense, Bottjen later bought an ambulance and began the Volunteer Hill City Ambulance Service, which after a few years was donated to the community.

Bottjen is also a pastor and believes EMS practitioners are the hands of God every time they reach out to help patients. Colleague Wes Heidlebaugh says, “With all his leadership and lifesaving skills, the thing that impresses me most about Terry is his compassion.”

Colleague Erik Twite adds, “Terry is one who more than exhibits exactly what EMS stands for.”

2017 NAEMT/Braun Industries EMT of the Year (sponsored by Braun Industries): Ryan Houser, Morristown, NJ

Ryan Houser has worked in EMS since age 16. From an early age, he demonstrated a drive to help others. Houser has aspirations of becoming a neurosurgeon, working in federal law enforcement and advancing the field of tactical medicine.

Houser is a volunteer EMT for Morris Minute Men EMS (Morristown, NJ) and as assistant captain, he helps with operational readiness and recruitment, chairing the agency’s membership and equipment committees.
Houser creates awareness videos to benefit community education and encourage agency volunteers. He attends Rutgers University full-time, is certified as a firefighter with Morris Township FD, and is an instructor of terrorism response courses.

Houser is an EMT for Cedar Knolls FD and Morris County OEM, serves on judiciary committees to support juveniles, and works at Morristown Medical Center as an emergency technician.

“Ryan dedicates considerable time to his pursuit of providing exceptional patient care to individuals in the prehospital and hospital setting,” says colleague Kendall Sarson. “Ryan has truly modeled his entire life around helping others, whether patient or peer, and his work as an EMT has become one of the most significant parts of his identity.”

2017 NAEMT/North American Rescue Military Medic of the Year (sponsored by North American Rescue): Sgt. Jacob Ponczkowski, U.S. Army, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington

Sgt. Jacob Ponczkowski serves in the U.S. Army 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as a military combat medic. He is also a paramedic.

Most recently Sgt. Ponczkowski was honored with a Bronze Star Medal with Valor for efforts to support Operation Freedom Sentinel in Afghanistan. The Joint Task Force citation read: “Sgt. Ponczkowski’s poise while under direct fire undoubtedly saved the lives of his fellow rangers and directly contributed to the success of the task force.”

Dr. Charles Moore, medical director and physician, wrote: “Sgt. Ponczkowski (Ponch) has continuously set the example of what a medic is and should be. On one particular night in Afghanistan, Sgt. Ponch heroically put his life in peril as he fought through enemy fire to save the life of a U.S. advisor.” Moore added that Sgt. Ponczkowski has impressive medical ability and knowledge, and is an exemplary soldier who trains himself and helps others to go above and beyond the standard.

Sgt. Ponczkowski has earned the Expert Field Medical Badge, is qualified as a dive medical technician, is a graduate of Ranger School, and has advanced instructor certifications.

2017 NAEMT/Jones & Bartlett Learning EMS Educator of the Year (sponsored by Jones & Bartlett Learning): Ginny Renkiewicz, Paramedic, Fayetteville, NC

Ginny Renkiewicz has devoted the past 17 years to advancing her education, the instruction of others, and enhancing her patient care skills in the service of her community.

Husband Adam Renkiewicz, CPT, CA, Dept. of the Army Civil-Military Operations, nominated Renkiewicz in recognition of her sacrifice and dedication to advancing the levels of education and research within the EMS profession.

Renkiewicz is in the process of earning her doctorate of health science and specializing in respiratory care. She holds numerous certifications, has received several national awards, is widely published and a conference presenter, and devotes personal time to her students.

Renkiewicz is “an educator of the highest order and has been responsible for developing some of the finest paramedics with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work,” says Howard (Skip) Kirkwood, Jr., formerly of Wake County EMS.

Kevin Collopy of AirLink/VitaLink Critical Care Transport adds that she is “one of the few prehospital education professionals who not only inspires young paramedics but also grows and inspires developing and accomplished educators.”

2017 Dick Ferneau Career EMS Service of the Year (sponsored by Ferno): Allina Health EMS, St. Paul, MN

Allina Health EMS serves more than 100 Minnesota communities and employs nearly 570 paramedics, EMTs, dispatchers, special transportation drivers, maintenance and administration and support personnel. Services include priority medical dispatch, 9-1-1 prearrival instructions, emergency and nonemergency ambulance response, the Greater Minnesota Ride program and wheelchair transport.

In 2017, to support the development of evidence-based practice, Allina Health EMS added an in-house epidemiologist and a manager of EMS analytics to expand research, analysis and interpretation of information. In 2015 Allina’s communications center became one of only 144 dispatch centers in the world to achieve accreditation by the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch.

Allina launched a mobile integrated health (MIH) project to reduce the number of readmission and ED visits for patients with mental health issues or frequent hospital readmissions for CHF, COPD or cardiac conditions. In 2015 the agency conducted the first Allina Health EMS Freedom House EMT class to recruit and train inner-city St. Paul residents as EMTs.

2017 ZOLL Volunteer EMS Service of the Year (sponsored by ZOLL): Greenlawn Fire Dept. EMS, Greenlawn, NY

Greenlawn Fire Dept. EMS in Greenlawn, NY, serves a population of 25,000 with a staff of 38 EMTs and 3 paramedics. The agency runs 2,300 emergency calls per year and does not bill for services.

The department recently acquired a LIFENET system to transmit 12-lead EKGs directly to the hospital to decrease door-to-balloon times in cardiac emergencies. EMTs are all trained in 12-lead EKG acquisition and transmission to the hospital. The agency also recently implemented a “check and inject” program of epinephrine in cases of anaphylactic shock.

Staff wellness is a priority, as the district constructed a gym that’s free for all members and instituted mandatory annual physicals for EMS staff. Greenlawn Fire Dept. EMS is currently equipping all vehicles with a stretcher loading system and power stretchers to ensure caregiver safety. Twice annually the department holds a patient “lifting and moving” class.

Greenlawn recently instituted a CPR campaign to help residents wishing to get Heartsaver-certified. During EMS Week, the rescue squad hosts activities to introduce the public to what EMS is. The agency consistently brings educational programs to elementary and high schools to help raise awareness of emergency medical services.

To  learn more about these esteemed practitioners and agencies, don’t miss the Opening Ceremony at EMS World Expo, Oct. 18  in Las Vegas.


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