FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wisconsin EMS Association® (WEMSA®) honors 2022 EMS Excellence in Service Awards Winners
Contact: Alan DeYoung, Executive Director
Wisconsin EMS Association
26422 Oakridge Dr.
Wind Lake, WI 53185
Wind Lake, WI — The Wisconsin EMS Association® is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 EMS Excellence in Service Awards. The awards will be presented during the Wisconsin EMS Association’s Conference and Expo on Friday, February 3, 2023, at the Resch Expo in Green Bay, WI.
“At a time when we need to recognize and focus on Emergency Services even more than ever, I am excited about all of our award winners as their service and dedication has shown their resiliency and persistence to go beyond the call of duty.” said Alan DeYoung, WEMSA Executive Director.
We congratulate the following recipients and recognize their exceptional contributions to the EMS profession and the communities they serve. Here are some quotes from the award winners friends and colleagues who nominated them:
2022 WEMSA Lifetime Achievement - Richard Tellock - Fremont Wolf River Ambulance
Calvin Coolidge once said “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” President Coolidge was spot on however, the WEMSA Excellence in Service Nomination is a way in which we can give something back to a man who has given so much of himself. Dick is a pillar in the community who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our service.
Where did Dick get his start? America had been officially involved in the conflict since 1961 when Kennedy sent troops there. But for Dick this was a new experience and far away from Fremont, Wisconsin. In 1969, Richard Nixon was on his way to the White House and Dick was headed to a little country in Southeast Asia called Vietnam. Keep in mind that the Draft was not instituted until December that year, so Dick enlisted on his own volition and was not drafted. He volunteered himself for the service of his Country. His time spent “in country” was exemplary but like most Vietnam Veterans he rarely speaks about his experiences there. However, we were able to find out that Dick’s Military Occupational Specialty covered was pretty extensive. During his time in the Army, he managed to make the rank of E5 Sargent. He was also twice decorated with both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for meritorious service in combat. His last assignment was acting as a personal guard to a high-ranking officer, but he only discloses bits and pieces of his time in Vietnam. Once again, he volunteered and was awarded for what he gave of himself in Vietnam.
Upon coming home he found full time employment as well driller. As of April 1st of this year, Dick will be at the 50 year mark drilling wells in his area. The man can tell you what depth you will find water and what you will need to get through to get to it too. He knows just about every trick in the book, having many years of experience. That same year Dick started his emergency services career with the Fremont Fire Department. He was working full time but still looking for a way to continue to serve his community. In 1974 he found that chance once again and volunteered to serve his community. However, this time it was in a more domestic capacity as a Firefighter. Little did he know at that time, but he signed on to another 48-year tour at the Fire Department. Over his career Dick held many roles and currently serves in the Fire Auxiliary. He is the treasurer, assists with training, conducts truck checks, performs maintenance and drives apparatus; basically, doing everything asked of him and a little more where he can. Things began to settle; Dick and his wife Rosie started a family. For a little while, life moved along as usual until 1978. There was a new Ambulance service starting up in town. When they started asking for volunteers naturally Dick stepped up to give of himself once again. He went to school and finished EMT-B in 1979 and started running with Fremont Wolf River Ambulance. Later Dick received his AEMT license and has been running on the ambulance for 43 years. Not surprisingly he has one of the highest response percentages and will even come to help other crews on his days off. When there are fundraisers or other activities associated with the department Dick is always there and engaged in getting things done. He is a value-added member of our team and we are lucky to have him. With everything Dick has going on he still volunteers to give more of himself. Dick is also a member of the American Legion and participates in the honor guard. In that role Dick is part of the team who takes part in the funeral honors ceremony, he will don a full military honor guard uniform, ensure the playing of taps happens, participate in the folding and presentation of the American flag to the next of kin and other duties as prescribed per military protocol. Whether it’s on the ambulance service, the Fire Department, the Legion or well drilling Dick has become the go-to guy. He is not just a member of these organizations but an active and contributing member. In fact, in Merriam Websters Dictionary when you look up the definition of the word “experience” you will most like see the man’s picture there....well maybe that is a stretch but you get the point. Dick is a one of kind guy who will never pass up the opportunity to help others, has a passion to serve and an unparalleled level of dedication almost unheard of today. Congratulations to WEMSA’s 2022 Lifetime Achievement award, Dick Tellock!
2022 WEMSA Educator of the Year - Steve Collins - Black River Falls Fire Department
Steven Collins must rank among the finest emergency caregivers in our nation and imparts his skill in EMS delivery in brilliant fashion as the primary educator for all Jackson County Wisconsin first responder groups. Steve has over 27 years of experience working as an EMT and is as appreciated amongst the most senior members in his fire department as he is in the eyes of the youthful new healthcare workers and volunteers that he shepherds into the emergency response field.
Steve is selfless with his time serving multiple sessions on multiple days each month fostering development and growth among first responders and EMTs. Beyond these structured times, Steve makes time to review, learn, or explore EMS topics with peers at all levels. While the education Steve presents is accessible and understandable to EMRs, it is sought after and valued by critical care medics, experienced emergency RNs, and hospital leadership. The eclectic mix that exists in our EMR ranks is very well served by Steve’s dedication to shared learning.
The education Steve provides is always engaging with mixed content delivery, but Steve always begins his classes with hands on BLS CPR practice. Steve has excellent understanding of the pathophysiology of CPR guiding profound competence in the rendering of such skills. Steve provides education with deep fundamental knowledge reinforced by years of making it happen. Steve teaches with experiential enthusiasm that continues to save lives.
The education Steve offers is planned via self-scheduling tools with Steve remaining available by phone and traditional means to keep less tech savvy, but profoundly competent responders connected. Steve worked with the Black River Falls School District to secure use of conference rooms for responder trainings. Steve has excellent rapport with area physicians who are often leveraged for training through lectures or recordings. Steve is largely responsible for transitions toward IGEL airways, enhanced AED technologies, and ETCO2 monitoring in Jackson County.
In person classes are kept at modest size levels to ensure everyone is engaged in content discussion and skill review. Steve fosters a learning setting where new, young, or quiet members are provided potentially extra attention and support. This setting also allows a venue for more experienced or credentialed members to interject pertinent pearls of wisdom. This educational environment fosters community among responders and understanding between field and hospital environments. Steve’s efforts remind and encourage all levels of emergency care that we are a community -- working on the same team.
Beyond profound proficiency as a caregiver and truly impressive skill as a nurturing educator, Steve is one the nicest guys a person could ever have the pleasure of meeting. Steve gives far more than is asked with a kind, joyful affect. Steve is a model of physical health, mental agility, and moral strength. Steve is deeply appreciated among peers and loved in the community. Steve deserves praise for so much, and I/we hope with review you’ll agree that he is deserving of your EMS Educator of the Year honor. Congratulations to WEMSA’s 2022 EMS Educator of the Year award, Steve Collins!
2022 WEMSA Support Person of the Year - Dan Pojar - Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management
In the years that I have known Dan, he has been a leader and innovator in the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management and in the field of EMS Medicine. Dan has consistently demonstrated leadership and community service throughout his career and that has been particularly relevant in the last year. Both in the field and in the office, Dan works to model the highest standard of ethics and professionalism, mentoring and guiding his employees and colleagues.
Dan has been on the forefront of our community health promotion efforts, forming a community response EMS team, assisting with COVID testing and vaccinations, and developing unique education modalities for our providers. It is this leadership and work ethic that has led to Dan not only being a leader in our department, but having a major impact on the broader community as well. As the dynamic nature of the supply chain in the COVID-19 pandemic made testing harder to obtain, Dan led the development and implementation of a testing site staffed by first responders and dedicated to first responders in our community. Welcoming hundreds of EMS providers, law enforcement personnel, and other first responders, Dan’s work helped to maintain continuity of staffing and services throughout the county, serving a population of nearly 1 million.
Months later, when COVID-19 vaccines became available but were in short supply for first responders, Dan converted the testing site he had developed to also provide on-site vaccination to these critical EMS and law enforcement personnel. This site was subsequently moved to a larger venue and transitioned to also serve the broader community, focusing on vulnerable populations to better ensure equity in health promotion in our community. Ultimately, this Kosciuszko Community Center Vaccination site was the largest non-federally funded community vaccination site in Milwaukee County—all staffed by first responders recruited and trained by Dan—administering over 17,000 vaccine doses. Congratulations to WEMSA’s 2022 EMS Support Person of the Year, Dan Pojar!
2022 WEMSA EMT of the Year - Kristy Benedict - Gundersen Tri-County Ambulance
When on shift as the solo provider in a small-town emergency department, thoughts about what staff we have available at any given moment are ever present. If our ambulance is unloading a patient and I see Kristy Benedict is the EMT on service, I know we immediately have added an extremely talented, hardworking, selfless, and intelligent member to the team. Kristy has been an invaluable member to the Gundersen Tri-County EMS service for 31 years.
As Tri-County is a rural EMS service, the EMT’s often will often staff the Emergency Department as techs when they are on call for the ambulance. Kristy works both roles as an EMT and Emergency Department Tech. She is highly professional and is a self-starter who continually goes above and beyond in her work. Being from one of the small towns in our service area, Kristy regularly knows our patients outside of work. It says even more about Kristy when you see someone who knows her personally be relieved and reassured when it is Kristy that has come to their aid. Her personal connections to the local community allow her to be a fabulous advocate for what a patient may need both medically and socially.
Kristy is a valued leader on our EMS service. She is always wanting to know what kind of outcomes her patients had, and she seeks out learning opportunities whenever possible. Currently, Kristy is also studying to become a paramedic, which we are sorely in need of for our ambulance service. She is instrumental in training new hires, who typically are very young new graduate EMT’s. New staff are always able to look to Kristy to lead by example; whether the case is a trauma, a COVID-19 patient, a critical medical patient, or simply someone lacking resources to get to the hospital without our ambulance service. Finding and keeping quality staff for a rural EMS service is very challenging, now more than ever. We are extremely fortunate to have Kristy Benedict anchoring our EMS team. Congratulations to WEMSA’s 2022 EMT of the Year, Kristy Benedict!
2022 WEMSA First Responder of the Year - James Justinger - Howards Grove Fire Department
Howards Grove Fire Department provides 24/7 coverage to it’s community members and they are able to do so without a formal schedule. We are fortunate to have dedicated members that respond at all hours of the day. One of our most dedicated members is Jimmy Justinger. Jimmy has been a member of the Howards Grove Fire Department since September 1, 1993. Jimmy started off as a firefighter and earned his EMR license in 2015. So far in 2022, Jimmy has responded to a total of 83 calls for service for both fire and EMS. He has responded to 73% of the calls this year. In 2021, Jimmy responded to 198 calls which equates to 71% of all calls. He was the top responder for our agency last year. He is on pace for that same honor this year. Jimmy works across the street from the fire station. His employer is kind enough to allow him to leave and respond to calls. Unless Jimmy is out on a delivery he responds to all day shift calls. Jimmy also gets up at 2 am and responds to those calls as well! If Jimmy is around, it's almost guaranteed he will be there. Jimmy's family is well known in the area. He often uses his knowledge of the community and the residences to form connections with those that we serve.
Often times he knows the people we are serving and is very passionate about the care he delivers. Jimmy is guaranteed to be at both fire and EMS practice if he is able to every month. We never have to worry about him not coming to drill. The only time he misses is if he is gone on vacation. He is willing to step up and help out at drills and is an informal leader. The same holds true at actual scenes. If something needs to be done and no one is doing it, Jimmy will either do it himself or ask someone else to do it. Jimmy serves on our brat fry committee. He spends countless hours preparing for our annual fundraiser. He travels across the state to obtain food and supplies for our event. He is always willing to go the extra mile to ensure the department is successful. Jimmy has a heart of gold and would give you the shirt off of his back. He is always willing to help and will be there when you need him. Congratulations to WEMSA’s 2022 First Responder of the Year, James Justinger!
2022 Paramedic of the Year - Noelle Gross - Bell Ambulance
When you think of a Paramedic you would think of someone who is skilled, compassionate, smart, caring, personable, and a leader. Those are traits that are used to describe Noelle Gross.
Being a Paramedic isn’t just about the skills or the calls, it’s about everything they do around those two elements. Sure, we all love a good call and we need to be proficient in our skills. However, running calls and having good skills are baseline aspects of the job. What matters more is the critical thinking Noelle shows as a scene manager, the ability she has to make her patients feel at ease, and how successful she is at elevating everyone around her. Noelle brings all of these elements every single day she is on the ambulance. Not only does she bring these elements every day, but she also excels at them and provides a clear image of what a Paramedic should and can be.
Working in EMS can be taxing. It is too easy for those of us working in the field to let things get to us. It is made all the easier to not let them get to you when you work alongside someone like Noelle and witness her turn a bad shift into a good shift. No matter how adversarial the patient, she always has a kind ear to lend and is able to get them to feel better about the situation. No matter the skill of the person she is working with, she is able to meet them at their level and help them to improve themselves.
Noelle is someone who loves her job, loves what she does, and displays these attitudes in a way that is infectious. If you’re working with Noelle you can’t help but recall the reasons that you got into EMS in the first place and why it’s the job you want to do until you can no longer safely hop out of the back of the ambulance. Congratulations to WEMSA’s 2022 Paramedic of the Year, Noelle Gross!
2022 EMS Service of the Year - City of Oshkosh Fire Department
It is my great honor to nominate the Oshkosh Fire Department for the award of EMS Service of the Year. The Oshkosh Fire Department, led by Chief Mike Stanley and Division Chief of EMS, Chuck Hable, approached our agency with an idea to collaborate to prevent falls in the City of Oshkosh. An idea grew into a funded partnership, led by Oshkosh Fire Department EMS.
Falls are the leading cause of death in Wisconsin among older adults, and as the number of older adults is set to exponentially increase over the coming decades, we are facing a “silver tsunami” of falls. The number of people turning sixty-five will only increase in the years to come, estimating 10,000 per day in the USA alone.
In 2019, Chief Stanley and Division Chief Hable collaborated to investigate the source of falls, and a profile of those falling in the City of Oshkosh. A pilot study grant was funded, eighteen focus groups were held, and results were presented to the community. Chief Stanley and Division Chief Hable approached Rebuilding Together Fox Valley with an innovative idea to address the increasing number of individuals falling in the community. The Winnebago County Aging and Disability Resource Center was recruited to support the initiative, and the Regional Trauma Advisory Committee offered to create a data format to provide referrals and collect data; all without adding a significant burden to Fire Departments or EMS providers.
When responding to a fall related call, Oshkosh EMS offers a Fall Referral, which connects the individual who fell with Rebuilding Together Fox Valley and Winnebago County Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). Rebuilding Together Fox Valley will install grab bars, toilet seat risers, bathtub transfer benches, night lights, and anti-slip strips in the bathtub at no cost. The ADRC provides the individual who fell with crucial resources that help prevent future falls, including food security, exercise classes, transportation to appointments, and even ensuring that the individual is maximizing the benefits they have through their health insurance provider.
When other fire departments and EMS providers learned of this partnership, they reached out to follow suit. The initiative is gaining traction and the impact being made is nothing short of incredible. Not only are lives being saved by preventing future falls, Fire Departments and EMS providers are able to redirect time spent serving people that fell to more critical calls. Furthermore, this fall prevention model saves money to cities, counties, and taxpayers. In 2019, fall -related calls cost Oshkosh Fire Department just over $2.1 million to service, approximately $1500 per call. It is the goal of the Fall Prevention Initiative to continually reduce the number of fall related calls that EMS providers and Fire Departments must respond to.
The true key to the success of this initiative is Oshkosh Fire Department EMS Service. Chief Stanley and Division Chief Hable have created a culture of concern for those they serve by laying a foundation of trust in the community. Members of the department have dedicated their time to professionally and empathetically explaining the initiative to patients and families, which has made all the difference in this successful and important prevention effort. When contacting individual community members who were provided fall referrals from the City of Oshkosh, every individual commended on the kindness shown them by Oshkosh Fire Department personnel; and many shared that they agreed to the referral solely because Oshkosh Fire Department told them that it was a good idea and would help keep them safe in their home.
The initiative has also inspired partners in the initiative to become even more proactive; making presentations to senior centers, communities of faith, businesses, civic groups, and anyone that will listen, to encourage fall prevention awareness and installation of fall prevention aids. Local medical providers and home healthcare agencies have also become involved, nutrition programs are sharing our work, and nonprofits are including the initiative as a referral for those they serve as well. The initiative has obtained three years of initial funding through local community foundations, with plans to integrate further funding into city and county budgets, coupled with private fundraising.
Because of the vision, commitment to service, and passion of Chief Stanley and Division Chief Hable, our initiative will continue to grow and reduce the number of older adults falling in their homes. Congratulations to WEMSA’s 2022 Service of the Year, City of Oshkosh Fire Department!
For more information about Wisconsin EMS Association call 414-431-8193 or visit www.wisconsinems.com
The Wisconsin EMS Association is a non-sectarian, non-profit organization open to all. We represent and support the views and interests of our membership by working together as Your Voice for EMS® to promote education, share information, and facilitate legislative action.