The 2018 KEMSA Award Winners were recognized at the 2018 KEMSA Conference & Expo "Honoring Our Own” Awards Banquet on Saturday, August 11, 2018 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. We were extremely pleased that we had so many deserving candidates this year.
Learn about the 2018 winners below.
Mike Woolery, Battalion Chief (retired) from Johnson County Med-Act, was the recipient of the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award. Mike started his EMS career in 1972 as a dispatcher for the ambulance service in Wichita. He then completed his EMT certification in 1974 and his paramedic in December 1975 through the Kansas University Medical Center program. He began his career with Johnson County Med-Act in 1976, rising to the level of Battalion Chief until his retirement on October 1, 2017. His career in EMS spanned almost 42 years.
During his career, Mike was part of the mutual aid response to the Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse in 1981. His assignment was to triage and treat numerous patients. That incident ended up with 114 fatalities and injured 216 people. He also was part of the State of Kansas response team for Hurricane Katrina and was assigned to Mississippi. He worked for two weeks during the recovery at the State Command Post. He developed and implemented one of the first paramedic first response squads to assist in providing much more efficient ALS response in the rural areas of Johnson County. And, these squads are still in place today. Additionally, he was one of the first Tactical Medic members in the nation and served on the Tactical Medic team in Johnson County.
His biggest achievement has been his continued compassion and caring for his patients and their families throughout his long career. He would always take the extra time to visit patients after the call and follow-up with their family members. He has even mowed lawns for families who had just lost loved ones. He obtained and presented a KU autographed basketball and volleyball for 11-year-old twins who had just lost their father. He was so dedicated to his profession that even at his retirement, the mother of an 11-month-old baby that was initially saved, but later died, cared enough to attend the reception and spoke about how hard they tried to save her son and how much compassion and concern was showed to her and her family afterward.
Mike’s job and his long EMS career have meant so much more than just “doing his job.” He has touched countless lives of patients, their families, co-workers, and allied agencies he worked with.
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.
Esther Harp, AEMT with Clearwater Emergency Services, was the recipient of the 2018 EMT of the Year Award. Esther was nominated for this award due to her dedication to Clearwater Emergency Services and her community. Since starting with Clearwater, Esther has become an AEMT and become one of the primary responders for the service with 158 calls in 2017. For 2018, she is on track to beat that number.
Esther’s nomination states “She is a profound patient advocate and is not afraid to speak up when necessary to protect patient privacy or protecting the patient’s family. She is always willing to train and learn new things. Esther is not only willing to improve herself, but others also as she mentors new members and guides them during the probationary period.”
In 2017, Esther was promoted to EMS Captain at Clearwater Emergency Services and has taken on more responsibilities with running the service. Her captain duties include overall management of members, patient care, supplies and ordering, and making sure the units are in constant ready state. Esther continues to go above and beyond for her service and her community.
This award is given to a Kansas EMT who has significantly contributed to EMS at the community, state and/or national level.
Leigh Chambers, Lieutenant Paramedic (retired) with Sedgwick County EMS (SCEMS), was the recipient of the 2018 Paramedic of the Year Award. Leigh was nominated for this award because he has proven to be an exemplary medic on so many levels. Leigh retired in January 2018 after 30 years with Sedgwick County EMS and has provided superior patient care with recent recognition, both locally and nationally as part of a team that provided critical care to a toddler that drowned in an icy pond December 2017 (just three days before he retired). This child made a complete recovery with no deficits today. Leigh has always loved being directly involved with patient care and the potential of a positive outcome.
As an employee of both EMS as well as a local ER nurse, Leigh worked with ER staff to bring more understanding of how EMS and ER can work together more effectively to provide the best patient care upon arrival to the emergency department, thus bringing a much more fluid continuity of care upon arrival. Leigh assisted with educating EMS on the practices of this particular ER and likewise, assisted the ER with education on SCEMS protocols. This brought about specific changes in how this ER now responds to stroke alerts as well as closed head injuries brought in by EMS to promote a more positive outcome for these patients.
Leigh has always been a part of the SCEMS Honor Guard and remains a retired member. He continues to represent SCEMS by playing “Taps” for fallen heroes and by using his talented photography skills for educational and promotional purposes involving emergency medicine as seen by Hutchinson Community College Field Ops and the many photos for SCEMS administration and media.
Leigh knew back in kindergarten that he wanted to be a paramedic. We congratulate him on an amazing 30-year career as our 2018 Paramedic of the Year.
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.
Frank Williams, program director for LifeSave Transport, was the recipient of the 2018 Administrator of the Year Award. Frank is a registered nurse and the program director at LifeSave Transport. After working in nursing for a while, he began his career in EMS at Butler County EMS in 1988 as an EMT and then got certified as an EMT-I in 1990. He then obtained his Paramedic certification in 1991 followed up with his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Southwestern College in 1995. He has served as a field medic, flight nurse, and continues to teach as an Instructor for Advanced Medical Life Support (AMLS), Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support (PHTLS), Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), and Rural Trauma Team Development Course (RTTDC).
Frank is a charter member and past-president of the Kansas Chapter of Association of Air Medical Services. He is the EMS Representative on the Kansas South-Central Regional Trauma Council and is on the KEMSA Board of Directors. He has served in numerous leadership positions and is on the Kansas Region III EMS Board of Directors and a member of the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association.
Frank is the Chief of the Butler County Rescue Squad and has served as an Affiliate Faculty/Instructor in the Fire Science Program for Butler County Community College. He has helped create and implement curriculum, syllabus, objectives, examinations and instructional plans for Emergency Rescue courses. In addition to providing oversight for a staff of 20 volunteers, Frank also acts as a liaison with other rescue squads and manages the portion of the budget allocated for his division. Frank is committed to ensuring his members have the resources necessary for their success. This includes, but is not limited to: tools, equipment, training, and organizational support.
Frank gives back to his community and volunteers his spare time to serve with the Boy Scouts of America. He recognizes the importance of developing today’s youth and remains steadfastly committed to ensuring that these young men have the character and ethical mindset to be productive leaders in our society.
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.
Michelle Westfall, training director for Leavenworth County EMS, was the recipient of the 2018 Donald E. White Educator of the Year Award. Michelle is an esteemed educator and dedicated Training Director for Leavenworth County EMS. She goes to great lengths to ensure the service’s success, and also to promote the individual personal and professional growth of the line technicians in the service – both those at the EMT and Paramedic levels.
Teaching over 200 classes a year, often multiple classes in one day, Michelle travels across the 469 square-mile county regularly to bring training to the technicians. As busy as that would have her seem, she also manages to find time to research external training opportunities and provide connections to get service’s technicians into those outside trainings. Under Michelle’s guidance, technicians not only look forward to trainings, but actively seek out training beyond their scheduled shift times. In addition, Michelle actively looks for partners in the community to come present trainings for the service on specific topics. For example, the service had training by a DNP from Children’s Mercy talking about EMS response to Child Physical Abuse; interactive presentations from a local Board-Certified Cardiologist about STEMI and nSTEMI responses both in hospital and in the field; participatory situational awareness training by the captain of our SWAT team; and a Director from KVC talking about responding to pediatric emotional and behavioral crises. There is no doubt in the collective minds of Leavenworth EMS that Michelle is beyond dedicated to providing every training possible at the highest possible caliber and quality.
Michelle is also tasked with other duties for her service besides training. Amidst developing new protocols, testing technicians, developing new trainings, and arranging for outside trainers to present, Michelle was also unexpectedly made the service’s Designated Infection Control Officer. The multitude of personal trainings, webinars, binders full of reading materials, and effort Michelle put forth to track her service’s compliance (and get them back to full compliance) is well deserving of its own award. That she continued to excel and develop new trainings in light thereof is astounding and truly representative of Michelle as a laudable and award-worthy educator.
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.
Nancy Ratzlaff, billing director for LifeSave Transport, was the recipient of the 2018 Support Person of the Year Award. Nancy has worked as the Billing Director for LifeSave Transport headquartered in Wichita, Kansas since 2004. She has been involved in EMS in one capacity or another since 1993 when she first obtained her EMT certification while working at Butler County EMS as an Administrative Assistant from 1992-2004. Nancy let her EMT certification expire in 2006 and her primary focus for the past 23 years has been EMS/Ambulance billing.
She is the founder of the Kansas Ambulance Providers group, which assists ambulance billers throughout Kansas with Medicare and other billing issues. She serves as the ambulance representative for Kansas for the Center for Medicare, Medicaid services (CMS) Provider Outreach Advisory Group since 2006 and also served as a member of its sister organization, the Provider Education/Training (PET) group for the State of Kansas since its inception in 2010. She has served as the Ambulance Consultant for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas since 2012 and as President of the Kansas Emergency Medical Association (KEMSA) Society of Billing Professionals since its creation. The Society of Billing Professionals was created in 2013 to provide a forum for billers to discuss important issues and questions in regard to billing for EMS services, along with providing presentations, and lobbying State and Federal government to improve reimbursement as a part of financially caring for the patient.
She has provided ambulance billing classes for KEMSA and the Kansas EMT Association (KEMTA) and has served as the billing consultant for various ambulance services throughout Kansas. In her current capacity, she also provides ambulance billing for multiple EMS services in the state of Kansas.
Nancy’s nomination describes her as “a true patient advocate by making sure that patients aren’t getting short changed by health insurance or Medicare when it comes to their medical expense because she believes it’s about what is best for the patient.”
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.
Butler County EMS (BCEMS) was the recipient of the 2018 Career Service of the Year Award. BCEMS serves a population of 68,000 with a staff of 28 paramedics and 13 EMTs. Last year, they ran 5,750 emergency calls and 441 non-emergency calls. For the past year or more, their innovative changes have focused on ways to enhance their services to the community through the use of data to improve the safety of the crew, patients, and the public.
For safety initiatives, BCEMS designed a new low-top sprinter ambulance allowing crews to remain seated during transport. The units also have power cots and power load systems to decrease the workload for the crew members. Along with the new ambulances came the need to review their use of lights and sirens. Using outcome data and working with their Emergency Communications Center, they were able to change policies and respond to over 65% of their calls without the use of lights and sirens. This had no adverse patient outcomes and improved the safety of the crew, patients, and the public. Another safety initiative was addressed as the service created new uniforms for personnel to ensure they were visible on scene, especially roadways.
For patient care initiatives, BCEMS’ focus has been on providing high quality care to the patients they serve. In order to do that, they improved their training program. Most of the training is scenario-based and focuses on enhancing the care they provide. Their new program allows crew members to get well over 100-hours of continuing education each year. Cardiac arrest response has also changed as a patient care initiative. In 2017, BCEMS received recognition as a Mission: Lifeline Silver Plus EMS agency by the American Heart Association. This recognition is based on the agency meeting multiple criteria over a 12-month period to improve the quality of care for cardiac, and especially STEMI patients.
For public outreach initiatives, BCEMS developed a Public Education and Outreach position to focus solely on reaching out to the community to provide trainings like Stop the Bleed, First Aid, CPR, and more. They also help with the SafeKids program and car-seat safety checks along with interacting with the community at fairs, children’s events, and more. This has greatly increased their visibility to the public.
The position of Quality Improvement Director has been created to help with data management. This position is responsible for tracking and reviewing data in relation to patient care and operations. The goal is to provide a better picture of how the service is performing when it comes to responding to emergencies and providing care to patients.
This award recognizes a paid EMS system that exemplifies outstanding professionalism and service to the community it serves. This award honors agencies for their dedication, teamwork, and commitment to EMS.
Miltonvale EMS was the recipient of the 2018 Volunteer Service of the Year Award. Miltonvale EMS is a city-based EMS service that provides BLS prehospital care with volunteers to the citizens of the city of Miltonvale in Cloud County. The service responded to 57 emergency calls in 2017 with two ambulances.
Miltonvale EMS provides service in Cloud County along with Concordia Fire/EMS and Clyde. Recently, the agency has made some great strides in prehospital care/protocol development, medical community involvement, EMS system/program upgrade, and public education projects.
Miltonvale EMS was nominated for this award because of its proactive approach to emergency patient care in their community and its ability to improve relationships with surrounding hospitals. In addition, they continue to advance their training and improve their capabilities by purchasing new equipment. The nomination praised the care they provide their patients and how they are always looking to improve.
When looking at innovations in prehospital care, you can congratulate Miltonvale EMS on being awarded the Dane Hanson Grant in April 2018 for $30,000 that helped them buy a new Zoll X series monitor that will be used on their first out unit. For a super rural, BLS, volunteer agency, this grant was very much appreciated and deserved. As for protocols, Concordia, Clyde and Miltonvale worked hand in hand to develop protocols that would work for everyone, so that the smaller services of Miltonvale and Clyde could focus more on patient care and less on the administrative portion of protocols.
Recently, Miltonvale was able to improve staff morale and make the agency more efficient by implementing a new staff structure. They added internal positions of secretary, maintenance supervisor and program manager to take some of the responsibilities off the EMS director and encourage others to be involved. This has also helped with recruitment and retention as the staff are more active in the agency and are working to recruit new people as well.
As for public education, Miltonvale recently developed a facebook page in order to make themselves be more in front of the public. This has given them an opportunity to share what good things are happening in their agency to the public, what they are doing to make the public more comfortable, and let’s the public get to know who they are and what exactly they do.
This award recognizes a volunteer (or combination of paid/volunteer) EMS system that exemplifies outstanding professionalism and service to the community it serves. This award honors agencies for their dedication, teamwork, and commitment to EMS.
Riley County EMS (RCEMS) was the recipient of the 2018 Community Service Award. RCEMS has built a collaboration with the Riley County Health Department and the Flint Hills Wellness Coalition in developing a “Community Care Team (CCT)” with the goal of improving access to healthcare and wellness. This goal is accomplished by using actionable data to identify physical, mental, and financially vulnerable individuals and groups within their community. Once these individuals are identified, the CCT develops treatment plans and works to ensure compliance.
In addition to the CCT, RCEMS helped implement IRIS, which is a web-based communication tool to help organizations connect the families they serve to the right resources in their community. Using IRIS, the team can refer high-need patients encountered on calls to the appropriate community services using a streamlined process. By participating in the CCT and utilizing IRIS, they can track referrals and prevent patients from “slipping through the cracks”.
The IRIS system and the CCT allow RCEMS to be proactive and innovative in their approach to pre-hospital medicine while truly being patient advocates. The benefit of the CCT and IRIS system is a significant reduction in frequency of redundant EMS utilization, prevention of further injury and illness, and better health outcomes among identified individuals and families. The result is increased efficiency and a more effective EMS system along with improved overall health in the community.
The community service award is given to an individual or team who has been involved in the development of innovative approaches to injury and illness prevention or EMS awareness in the community.