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Leadership Lessons from Jim Page


I lifted the top off a cardboard file box and found a treasure -- maybe only a treasure to me, but a treasure nonetheless. The box had belonged to Jim Page, often referred to as the "father of modern EMS." Jim and I founded JEMS and were partners for nearly two decades, creating magazines, journals, books, newsletters, videos and conferences.„

The box was filled with manila folders hand-labeled with every conference Jim spoke at or attended from 1980 to 1982. Inside the folders were conference brochures, attendee lists, handwritten notes, speeches and even airline receipts. A dozen other file boxes contained the rest of the items he had accumulated during his travels, from 1975 to 2003.„

And these files, along with his reports, correspondence, scripts, videos, audio clips and photographs, will all become part of the James O. Page Collection at the UCLA Library, sponsored by the James O. Page Charitable Foundation and underwritten by a grant from Physio Control, Inc. Its vision is to see the collection become the basis of a national EMS library. This library would ensure that the voices and stories of EMS luminaries are available for future generations. (I was at UCLA with Baxter Larmon, PhD, MICP, a volunteer for the foundation, and Russell Johnson, the library's archivist, to help sort through which of Jim's material would be made available online later this year.)

In one of the boxes, I discovered correspondence from the early years of JEMS. Jim and I often exchanged notes about articles, topics or contributors. In one, Jim referenced a manuscript by a young Denver paramedic that was a work of fiction about the life of a troubled paramedic. Jim was enthused by it and wanted to run it as a series. I had reservations and wrote a note back to him about how I thought it had potential, but didn't think it was appropriate or ready yet for publication and why. Jim took my advice and sent a rejection letter to the author.„

Recently, while at UCLA, I came across that letter he wrote 25 years ago. Jim had told the author, Keith Neely, that he was moved by the manuscript, but that his editor (me) had doubts, and he was disappointed we weren't going to publish it. Jim included my note, spelling out the reasons for my decision. He ended his letter by writing that he had learned long ago that he had to trust the people to whom he had delegated responsibility and accountability, and that it was my call.„

A few years later Neely submitted a revised manuscript, which we published in book form.„Street Dancer was the first novel about a paramedic, by a paramedic. I'm still proud that our little company found a way to get it in print. Neely died of cancer in 2001, but not before he received his doctorate and contributed immensely to the advancement of EMS.

Jim accomplished so much in his career because he knew how to inspire others to help achieve his vision. His note to Neely was a reminder of a fundamental leadership principle Jim stuck with through thick and thin -- hire good people, give them direction and let them make the decisions you hired them to make.„

Jim died five years ago, but his many teachings will endure for generations to come.

Keith Griffiths,the founding editor of JEMS, is president of the RedFlash Group and chair of the James O. Page Charitable Foundation.

Click here to read more tributes for Jim Page.


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