The 2016 KEMSA Award Winners were recognized at the 2016 KEMSA Conference & Expo "Honoring Our Own” Awards Banquet on Saturday, August 13, 2016 in Mulvane, Kansas. We were proud to honor some of our own - individuals and organizations - for making a significant contribution to EMS in Kansas over the past year. Once nominations are verified that they meet the award criteria by the KEMSA Awards Committee, the nominations are sent to a special awards judging committee that consists of EMS professionals from outside of Kansas with no affiliation with any of the nominees. This year we had a record number of nominations, and some of the winners in each category only won by 1 point. We were extremely pleased that we had so many deserving candidates this year.
Learn about the 2016 winners below.
Mark Willis, Chief for the Newton Fire/EMS Department, was the recipient of the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award. Mark began his career in 1982 as a volunteer firefighter/EMT with the Whitewater, Kansas Fire Department and began his employment in Newton in 1985. He has served as a tactical paramedic, flight paramedic, an adjunct EMS instructor, Deputy Chief, and now department Chief. He is a charter member of the Kansas EMS Association (KEMSA) and has served in numerous leadership positions with KEMSA. He is currently serving as Chair for the Kansas Region III EMS Council.
Mark is a member of the Fire Operations Resource Coordination (FORCe) Command Team, the Southcentral Kansas Incident Management Team (SCKIMT), and a Division Commander with the Major Emergency Response Group (MERGe). He has been instrumental in writing and administering grants from MMRS for disaster medical equipment and supplies, Department of Homeland Security for EMS communications (radios) and MERGe equipment. He is committed to ensuring his members have the resources they need to succeed. He exhausts all avenues to make sure there’s money for the stuff that’s important, and that stuff consists of those things that keep his people safe and effective. He believes in the importance of being part of the community and he works to lead by example.
Mark received this award not only due to the positions he has had over the years, but because he willingly and enthusiastically shares his experience and advice. He has been an advocate for education and the betterment of the EMS profession, and has been an excellent role model for many of those in EMS. Mark is seen as a professional EMS provider and leader of the highest caliber. He has dedicated his professional life to the EMS profession. His achievements, on an individual level and team level, are too extensive to list. He has built a legacy of leading EMS in Kansas toward best practice and collaboration. His reputation has evolved to the highest level amongst EMS peers and healthcare system leaders.
This award is given to any Kansas certified EMS attendant whose contributions to pre-hospital care have been consistent and long lasting, representing in effect, a lifetime of outstanding service to the profession and to the public.
Jake Power, EMT with Norwich Ambulance Service, was the recipient of the 2016 EMT of the Year Award. Jake was nominated for this award because of his drive to be a volunteer and make a difference in his community. His nomination indicated it is not about him, but always about making an impact on the lives of his friends, neighbors, and family.
In 2012, Jake was determined to become an ambulance driver with no certification required. However the drivers were mandated to attend training classes that included nights of the EMT course. While reluctant at first, Jake soon became a diligent student and strove to completely understand all of the material to become an EMT. Without any difficulty, he managed to pass the course and all board examinations.
Since becoming certified, he has ranked in the top 2 for most responses and most call time hours every year. He has missed family events, dinners, and holidays responding to the call of help. He will spend his weekends and days off of his paid sales job taking call time and responding to emergencies. In 2016 alone, from January 1- to May 31st, he has already served over 1,000 hours on call. All of those hours are volunteer, with an unstoppable willingness and desire to serve. That is more hours than what many spend at their full-time job.
He is an asset to the team and works seamlessly with all levels of EMS professionals. He has a passion for emergency services that drives him to be a quality volunteer. He understands the need for people to step up, volunteer and serve their communities. As rural services struggle to recruit and retain volunteers, this volunteer is a shining example of what all rural volunteer services could hope to find. This award is for a Kansas EMT who has significantly contributed to EMS at the community, state and/or national level. It can be any level of EMT.
Mark Pohlman, Paramedic/IC with Ellinwood EMS & Captain with Great Bend Fire & EMS, was the recipient of the 2016 Paramedic of the Year Award. Mark works full-time for Great Bend Fire & EMS as a paramedic and serves as a Captain. He also works part-time for Ellinwood Fire & EMS. He has worked with Ellinwood EMS since 1992. In addition, Mark also teaches multiple classes with Barton County Community College, and is a CPR/ACLS instructor for American Heart Association. Mark is a very active member of the Ellinwood community and can be seen at any community event.
Mark is a humble person, but the nominator felt he should be recognized for his great passion and service he provides to the community. On one occasion, he was even able to remain calm as he saved the life of his co-worker and partner whose mother happened to be the EMS Director and driver of the ambulance that day. The director said “He used every tool in his arsenal, his skills and knowledge, his compassion and his ability to remain calm in the worst conditions helped him take care of all of us.”
The nomination went on to say, “Ellinwood is very lucky to have Mark Pohlman as a Paramedic, with the knowledge and skills that Mark has. Barton County is very fortunate to have an individual like Mark who helps out everyone in the county and is always willing to donate his time to make improvements in the world of EMS. Our service and our county would not be where we are today without his hard work and commitment to EMS.”
This award is for a Kansas Paramedic who has significantly contributed to EMS at the community, state and/or national level. It can be any Kansas Paramedic whose primary responsibility is providing direct patient care.
Tony Burr, EMS Supervisor for Edwardsville Fire Department, was the recipient of the 2016 Administrator of the Year Award. Tony took his current position in a time of turmoil with the sudden resignation of the first full-time EMS Supervisor. He immediately faced a mass resignation of volunteer EMS responders, and there was conflict within the community. Tony not only accepted the challenge of righting the ship, he immediately placed policy and procedure to guide the re-structuring and continuation of services to the community.
Besides being an Army veteran; Tony first was employed by Atchison County EMS, and later was a paramedic, shift supervisor and Assistant EMS Director for Leavenworth County EMS. The EMS operations within the department have flourished since Burr’s appointment by not only becoming more cost-effective with delivery, but also placing a priority on efficiency and effectiveness with supply maintenance, purchasing and accountability. The department has gained new equipment with a Stryker Power Pro Cot, Stryker Stair Chair, EZ IO drills, updated and additional Cardiac Monitors, and the placement of paramedics on both ambulances and a plan to still provide for a third call for service with ALS skills by utilizing Firefighter-Paramedics on the engine with lifesaving drugs, etc. to provide the skills necessary to save lives delivered within 3 and a half minutes from the time of dispatch.
All of these actions are a result of Tony’s insentience upon delivering excellent patient care with the right people, the right tools at the right time. Tony has updated department protocols, worked extensively with the agency’s Medical Director, and the numerous hospitals in the region that our agency will transport patients to, with the intent to deliver excellent service to the hospitals from our staff in regards to avoiding conflict and ensuring the appropriate care for all patients. This networking has extensively paid on in terms of patients being delivered to the most appropriate facility in a timely manner, which is equipped to treat the patient.
Tony, worked directly to have the medical director participate in quality assurance reviews, bringing a new concept and fresh approach to a tedious task that many EMS trained personnel despise. Furthermore, he is investigating numerous additional or potential deployment models for EMS providers, as well as honing the skills of personnel by coordinating and training many of the crew members to maintain their skill base and CEU hours for recertification at no costs to the volunteers.
He has further developed and networked with other EMS providers by being a member of the NAEMT, a member of the Kansas EMS Association and serving as a Board Member, a member of the IAFC in the EMS section, VCOS section and EFO section. Tony was accepted into the highly coveted Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy.
This award is for an administrator who has made a significant contribution to EMS Administration on a local, state or national level, and it is awarded to an EMS administrator whose primary responsibility is the direction of individuals involved in the delivery of prehospital care.
Kara Lawrence, paramedic with Finney County EMS, was the recipient of the 2016 Donald E. White Educator of the Year Award. Kara got into EMS straight out of high school in 2003. Even though she swore she’d NEVER become an EMT because her mom was always gone on EMS calls, she needed a side job for extra income. It just came natural to her after being a “patient” in several of her mom’s EMT classes. Kara was an EMT for five years, then got her EMT-I. She eventually got up the nerve to go to Paramedic school in 2014. She taught her first EMR class in 2007 under Chad Pore at Barton Community College. It was hosted in Greensburg, KS in the hospital basement and was the same year that the tornado hit the town of Greensburg.
“When I saw those guys jump in and try to do everything they could to help, it really hit me that I wasn’t just teaching a class, I was preparing people for future patients,” Kara stated. Teaching made her feel like she was actually able to reach more patients. She worked under other Instructor Coordinators until she was able to take a class and get certified as an IC in 2013.
Kara has taught nine EMT classes and contributed to the educational achievement of several students over the past seven years. Her passion for EMS and for sharing her knowledge is evident when she’s teaching. Her contagious enthusiasm and witty sense of humor make her classrooms an enjoyable educational experience. She is as dedicated to helping her students learn as she is to continuing to learn herself.
Kara works full-time as a paramedic at Finney County EMS and part-time in the Great Bend Regional Hospital ER. She recently got married in 2015 and has an 11-year-old step-son. Between juggling two jobs and a family, she still finds time to teach while giving 110% to her students.
This award is offered to recognize any Kansas Instructor Coordinator or Training Officer who is recognized by the Kansas Board of EMS to conduct initial courses of instruction or continuing education instruction and is given to an outstanding instructor of initial or continuing EMS education.
Kris Hill, RN with Via Christi Health, manages the Level 1 Trauma Program, is the Nursing Director for both St. Francis and St. Joseph EDs, and is the EMS Director for Via Christi Critical Care Transport and Dispatch ground service. Kris was the recipient of the 2016 Support Person of the Year Award.
Kris has been a long time Kansas EMS advocate at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis in Wichita, Kansas. Kris’ involvement in EMS dates back to 1988 when she first became part of the Via Christi Trauma program and helped Via Christi become accredited as a Level II Trauma Center in 1989 and the first Level 1 Trauma Center in Kansas in 1991. Kris was the Trauma Program Manager at Via Christi from 1999-2014. Under her leadership, in each and every reverification process the American College of Surgeons, Via Christi did not receive a single deficiency mark. In fact, it was well-documented that Kris Hill was a major strength of the Trauma Program.
Kris is recognized around the state as a trauma expert and is called upon frequently as a resource for other trauma and non-trauma hospitals. She has been involved in various aspects of service in the state and locally regarding trauma that includes a Governor’s Appointment to the Advisory Committee on Trauma Regional Trauma Executive Committee, Medical Society of Sedgwick County’s Trauma Subcommittee, teaching Trauma Nurse Core Course (TNCC) across the state for many years, helped Sedgwick County EMS improve its trauma performance through providing expertise counsel and in protocol and criteria development, and conducts Level IV Trauma Center site reviews.
One highlight of her advocacy is her involvement as instructor teaching the Rural Trauma Team Development course. This program emphasizes a team approach to the initial evaluation and resuscitation of the trauma patient at the rural facility. Kris’ unique approach to this program supports and encourages teams of providers and rural EMS and hospital settings to work together for the best patient outcomes. Since 60% of the country’s trauma deaths occur in the rural setting, this program promotes collaboration of care, promotes communication, and strengthens the confidence of rural providers to manage trauma victims.
Above all, Kris truly cares about people and the patients we all serve. She created an atmosphere of performance improvement through education, positive feedback, and reassurance to other EMS and hospital providers who initially treat and stabilize trauma victims before he or she ever arrives at the Level 1 Trauma Center. It is this passion for improving the trauma and health care system and all its interconnected pieces that motivates Kris to do what she does.
This award is offered to recognize one of the many individuals whose efforts enhance EMS in Kansas through their actions as a First Responder, Nurse, Dispatcher, Law Enforcement Officer, Pilot, Supervisor or other individual who would not fit into the other categories for individual recognition.
LifeTeam was the recipient of the 2016 Type I/Air Service of the Year Award. LifeTeam is a 24/7 critical care transport team that has been caring for Kansans since 2001. LifeTeam is a complete system which includes fixed wing, rotor wing, and ground ambulances that are strategically placed throughout the Midwest. Their state-of-the-art communication center is the heartbeat of the patient transport system. Air and ground unit tracking, finding a receiving hospital, linking rural ems agencies to receiving facilities, finding specialists for critical patients, alerting and coordinating state-wide resources for Major Emergency Response Group (MERGe), Fire Operations Resource Coordination (FORCe), Law Enforcement Assistance Deployment (LEAD), and Hospital Emergency Logistics Program (HELP) are just a few highlights of their center. They have in-house maintenance facilities for ground ambulances, helicopters and airplanes.
Over the past 15 years, the experienced and dedicated LifeTeam crew members have continuously and safely provided tens of thousands of patients the transport medicine necessary to save lives. A physician-driven company, LifeTeam ensures clinical excellence with an online-medical director involved in each transport.
Rural EMS provides many challenges with one being trying to provide immediate access to those with a medical or surgical emergency who may need a trauma surgeon, a cardiologist, or a neurologic specialist. LifeTeam can provide patients with quicker access to the life-saving care they need. As the Director of Kiowa County EMS
While the high-quality care and dedication to patients is reason enough for LifeTeam to receive this award, it is their involvement in the community that truly makes them worthy. With the increased demand for education in rural communities, LifeTeam assists their healthcare partners with continuing education for their employees. They offer over 200 formal Safety, AHA, NAEMT, ENA sponsored courses on-site at hospitals and EMS agencies.
This award recognizes an EMS system that exemplifies outstanding professionalism and service to the community it serves. It can go to any Kansas licensed Emergency Medical Service as a Type I (paramedic service) or an air service.
Hesston EMS was the recipient of the 2016 Type II (BLS) Service of the Year Award. The nomination stated that “Hesston EMS is a defining example of a highly professional, dedicated, and compassionate EMS service that goes above and beyond to serve the people of their community and the state of Kansas. This organization exemplifies the selfless nature of Kansas EMS.” Hesston EMS also was nominated for this award because it plays a significant role in the medical community, has met and overcome many challenges all the while increasing EMS certified personnel, and has increased the quality of their EMS service.
The greatest asset for Hesston EMS lies with the quality of their employees. Hesston EMS serves as a primary backup agency to Newton Fire/EMS. Numerous times throughout the year, you will see a Hesston ambulance and fire engine in a Newton Fire/EMS station or on scene. No matter the time of day, they always bring adequate, professional staff to backfill stations, or help out on a scene. In addition to high quality staff, they also have high quality, clean, and well prepared equipment. This can be seen in the recent addition of their third ambulance to join the fleet. Newton Fire/EMS counts on this organization significantly and every time they arrive with responders who can be counted on to do the job.
Over the last several years, Hesston EMS has seen a significant increase in their call volume. This call volume increase motivated department leadership to go out and recruit new personnel through several unique avenues. One method was reaching out to students at Hesston College where seven students currently spend their time going to class, but drop everything to respond to calls for the department. Several of these students were some of the first responders during the recent Hesston Shooting event. Other efforts to recruit and retain members have been successful too. During the month of May, they had six EMTs and two Paramedics finish their course work. This increase in capable personnel continues to increase the value of this agency to the community they serve.
Hesston EMS routinely supports Harvey County emergency service initiatives. Personnel from their organization are constantly serving on committees, and assisting in the delivery of countywide training and exercise initiatives. Most recently, they played a significant role in the countywide mass casualty and active shooter discussions/SOG creation.
Beyond their emergency service accomplishments, Hesston EMS is extremely active in their community, supporting a multitude of events. They annually train all lifeguard staff on medical and trauma emergencies. They routinely provide a significant EMS presence for the Emma Creek 5K event each May. Most recently, the department participated in a 9-week fitness challenge where they logged a total of 10,877 miles of walking, running, biking, and swimming. In addition to this, they still find time to have a regular presence at Hesston school activities and throughout the community, serving as advocates of EMS and community awareness.
Hesston EMS has three paid staff and the remaining personnel serve in a volunteer capacity. Their commitment to serve the community was on display when they responded to the Excel Active Shooter event on February 25th. Personnel responded without hesitation by transporting patients and helping coordinate response and recovery efforts. The volunteers, many of whom missed work and school, stayed to provide around the clock EMS coverage to the large contingent of federal, state, and local law enforcement that occupied their community for the next several days.
This award recognizes an EMS system that exemplifies outstanding professionalism and service to the community it serves. It can go to any Kansas licensed Emergency Medical Service as a Type II or Type IIA.
The 2016 Community Service Award was presented to three groups: the Newton Fire/EMS Disaster Medical Support Unit (DMSU), the Halstead DMSU, and the Major Emergency Response Group (MERGe). These three groups were nominated based on innovations in prehospital care and medical community involvement. They have all promoted EMS Awareness across the state by serving on working groups, committees, and attending board meetings. They also have responded to a variety of incidents from the Symphony in the Flint Hills to tornado strikes. In addition, they have spent countless hours ensuring EMS agencies have access to equipment, training, and exercises.
These winners are a great example of how to partner together to advocate, encourage, and support all aspects of emergency care and response. They have also shown dedication to constantly strive to bring the best practices and hard fought lessons learned to area EMS agencies as well as constantly striving to improve their performance, which leads to incredible organization and efficiency.
One support letter states, “Their commitment to participate in countywide and regional training opportunities is a standard that every organization should strive to emulate.”
All of this preparation, training, and collaboration was put to the test on an evening in February of this year. The Newton DMSU, the Halstead DMSU, and MERGe brought years of effort together as the nation watched them systematically execute medical branch operations during an active shooter event in Hesston, Kan. The EMS response to this event was nothing short of immaculate. In total, 66 people were utilized within the Medical Branch. 16 EMS units and two air ambulances with the assistance from MERGe were dispatched to the incident. There was a total of 14 patients and 4 fatalities. All of the patients departed the scene in less than 50 minutes and all survived!
These extraordinary efforts are the result of years of relationship building within Kansas EMS. It was the result of years of MCI training and exercise at the hands of MERGe and the DMSU teams. It was the result of years of planning and investing by Region III EMS leadership. It was the result of years of work by Kansas EMS partners to constantly strive to bring the best practices and hard fought lessons learned to our EMS agencies. Kansas EMS was tested February 25th and the resilience, compassion, and extraordinary bravery of the volunteers and full time EMS employees who responded to the incident showed the nation exactly what it is to be a part of Kansas EMS.
This award recognizes an individual or team who has been involved in the development of innovative approaches to injury / illness prevention or EMS awareness within the community. The recipient can be any Kansas Certified EMS attendant or EMS agency licensed by the Kansas Board of EMS.