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Joseph P. Ornato Wins the 2011 Va. Governor’s Award for Outstanding EMS Physician


RICHMOND, Va., November 29, 2011 — Dr. Joseph P. Ornato has won the 2011 Virginia Governor’s Award for Outstanding EMS Physician. Dr. Ornato’s involvement in and contributions to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) throughout the state of Virginia and world are numerous. He currently serves as Operational Medical Director of both the Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) and Richmond Fire and Emergency Services and is also Professor and Chairman of the VCU Department of Emergency Medicine. As one of the co-authors of the American Heart Association’s seminal ‘Chain of Survival,’ Dr. Ornato has shaped the way pre-hospital lifesaving has occurred across the globe.

“Joe Ornato is a brilliant physician whose leadership, drive, and determination for continued clinical advancements have helped transform the quality of emergency medical services here in Richmond and also pre-hospital care throughout the world,” said Chip Decker, CEO of the Richmond Ambulance Authority. “To enhance the efficacy of the famed “Chain of Survival,’ Dr. Ornato developed a pre-hospital therapeutic hypothermia treatment program for RAA that has helped save even more cardiac arrest victims’ lives. Richmond Ambulance Authority medics now administer cold saline intravenously as soon as possible during ongoing resuscitation in the field. This act, followed by sophisticated follow-up treatment in VCU’s post-resuscitation Advanced Resuscitation, Cooling, and Therapeutics (ARCTIC) program, has significantly increased the number of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims who survive to hospital discharge neurologically intact. Dr. Ornato stated “almost half of the cardiac arrest victims whose hearts can be restarted by our medics in the field and who qualify for continued advanced therapies at VCU now survive to hospital discharge, giving cardiac arrest victims as good a chance of survival as anywhere in the country.” As a result of our success in Richmond, many more EMS agencies are adopting this strategy.”

Curtis Monk, president and CEO of The Community Idea Stations, knows just how important the advances in medical technology have been. He is among the 40% of cardiac arrest victims in Richmond who eventually walked out of the hospital alive and well and has been able to resume his life as husband, father, and community professional.

“I have come to realize that Dr. Ornato had a direct influence on my being alive today,” said Monk. “I’ve had a series of heart-related problems over the years and the work done by Dr. Ornato has enabled solutions to be applied at precisely the right time in precisely the right way. In December of 2009, I knew I was in real trouble and my wife called the 911 service that is the first link in a critical chain of survival. As events spiraled out of control and I literally flat-lined, skilled Richmond Ambulance medics used techniques and technologies pioneered by Dr. Ornato to bring me back to life. I was then subjected to a process that lowered my body temperature – I believe they call it therapeutic hypothermia. This increased my chances of survival and, as it turned out, put me on the path to recuperation and recovery.”

“There are no proper words to say to a person who has had a direct hand in saving my life,” continued Monk. “ Perhaps my best course is to offer a simple ‘thank you’ and resolve to make sure I make a difference with the time I have been permitted to have.”

Dr. Ornato is triple Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiology and Emergency Medicine. His cheerful enthusiasm and willingness to lead the EMS efforts in Richmond, while striving to implement new lifesaving techniques and treatments, have been recognized by many. The following are excerpts from letters supporting his nomination for the 2011 Governor’s EMS Award for Outstanding Physician:

“He is a colleague with such diverse responsibilities and interests that one can only marvel at the extent and importance of his achievements. Joe’s work with the AHA…..is well known and greatly respected throughout Europe….Joe is generally recognized as one of the giants of Emergency Medicine and Resuscitation Medicine. He is also a delightful, kind and thoughtful colleague who has the ability to bring out the best in all who work with him.

- Dr. Douglas Chamberlain
East Sussex, England

Professor Douglas Chamberlain is a UK based, internationally recognized cardiologist who introduced paramedic care to the UK in 1970. He also was the author of the worldwide system by which cardiac survival is measured (the Utstein template) and has served as mentor, colleague and friend to Dr. Ornato.

“From an industry perspective, few physicians have had the impact Dr. Ornato has had in the field of EMS technology and in particular the improvement of Resuscitation outcomes. He has always been a visionary and trend setter. Looking at the areas in which he has pioneered the use of new techniques and technologies, they are always at the forefront of changes that follow. It could easily be said that watching what Joe is working to bring into the services to which he has been associated, is like looking into the future of EMS.”
- Richard A. Packer
CEO, ZOLL Medical

Packer also had this to say about Dr. Ornato, “In 1993 he was the Chair of the AHA Automated External Defibrillator Task Force – now nearly two decades later, AED’s are a part of our daily landscape as we travel about airports, visit schools and businesses.”

In typical fashion, Dr. Ornato’s reaction to all of this: “I’m deeply humbled and honored to receive this award on behalf of the incredible paramedics, first responders, and healthcare providers who together as a team make our emergency care system in Richmond one of the best in the world.”

About the Richmond Ambulance Authority
In 1991, the Richmond City Council and the city manager implemented an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system that placed the patient first and guaranteed its performance to the City's residents. Today, the Richmond Ambulance Authority responds to approximately 135 calls per day and transports, on average, 110 patients per day. RAA’s emergency response times are among the fastest in the nation with ambulances on the scene of life threatening emergencies in less than 8 minutes and 59 seconds in more than 90% of all responses. RAA is one of only 11 EMS agencies in the United States accredited by both the Commission on the Accreditation of Ambulance Services and the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch. RAA is also a Commonwealth of Virginia Accredited Dispatch Center. For more information, see www.raaems.org.


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