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Leadership/Management

On the Shoulders of a Giant: Remembering Jim Page

Reprinted with permission from Page, Wolfberg, & Wirth.

It’s hard to believe that it has been 15 years since we lost Jim Page far too early. We pause to reflect on Jim’s legacy and the positive impact he had on so many people around this country. Many of the advancements that we have made in EMS over the years we owe to the trailblazers like Jim Page.

Many have called Jim a “founding father of modern‐day EMS”—and rightly so. There was no organized system of response and no standards of care for pre‐hospital patient emergencies when Jim Page began as a firefighter with LA County Fire in the late 1950s. Jim devoted his entire life to establishing what we know today as “emergency medical services” and in improving the delivery of patient care in the field across this nation. Jim was instrumental in developing many of the standards of patient care and professionalism we follow today.

Even though Jim came from the fire service, his passion for the development of EMS knew no boundaries—he didn’t have time for the “us vs. them” or “public vs. private” divisions which ultimately arose in EMS (and sadly, which still exist in some places). He recognized, modeled and facilitated excellence in EMS across the board, whether provided by public agencies or private organizations.

Jim wore many hats and exerted tremendous influence as a key change agent in whatever role he was in at the time—firefighter, paramedic, fire chief, state EMS director, script writer, technical advisor, writer, editor, publisher, book author, speaker, conference organizer, and attorney—to name a few.

Jim was a powerful advocate for those who helped others.

In all that Jim did to develop and advance EMS, he never lost sight of those on the front line. Jim always worked tirelessly to improve the working conditions of those who cared for the patient. As the very first EMS attorney he took on many cases where firefighters and EMS providers were unfairly terminated or disciplined. And he often represented these individuals for free, giving back to EMS even into his retirement years.

Jim always sought to reduce the bureaucracy and other obstacles to improvement.

Jim always challenged the status quo and could be impatient with those who impeded progress. He would refer to the many government agencies and oversight authorities as the “fourth branch of government” that could be a major obstacle to improving patient care. He never hesitated to speak out and lead the charge against impediments to progress when politics and self‐interest interfered with providing the best possible care for the community.

Jim always kept the patient at the forefront.

Jim would often ask this question: “But how will this affect the patient?” when decisions involving EMS systems needed to be made. He was constantly on the move to observe the impact EMS had on the patient. He visited literally hundreds of fire and EMS stations nationwide to assess things first‐hand, where the rubber met the road.

As editor and publisher of JEMS magazine, he would publicly compliment and sing the praises of those who were doing it right, and when necessary, call out those who did not. He pulled no punches and did not hesitate to use the power of the publisher and the podium to challenge us all to do our very best. His message was always powerful, upbeat and positive. Jim made the reader or listener feel energized with a renewed belief that providing EMS was the most important thing they would ever do in their lifetime—and that it needed to be done with care, compassion, and skill.

Doing what is morally and socially right. Demanding and obtaining justice for those harmed improperly by a broken EMS system. Helping right the wrongs against individuals. Always remembering where he came from. Helping those who help others do their job just a bit easier. These are a few of the attributes of Jim Page that we remember the most. Fifteen years later, Jim’s example of servant leadership continues to be sorely needed as we struggle with many old and new challenges.

We all could use a bit more of that passion and zest for what Jim referred to as “the most noble of all professions.” We miss his friendship, mentorship, counsel and true concern that he brought to EMS. We have all been honored and blessed to have known him, and to have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of a giant whose positive impact and influence continues today and will do so well into the future.

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