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UMKC EMS Education Program Commemorates EMS Week with Freedom House Screening


Graduates from the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s (UMKC) EMS Education Program were welcomed to the profession with help from the first generation of EMS providers, and a screening of the documentary Freedom House: Street Saviors. The film tells the story of the nation’s first paramedic-level ambulance service in Pittsburgh, Pa., that revolutionized emergency medicine before the service was shut down amidst racial tension and politics.  

Freedom House paramedic George McCary III traveled with film producer Gene Starzenski—himself a longtime paramedic—to screen the documentary and congratulate UMKC EMS graduates. McCary presented each student with UMKC’s challenge coin in recognition of completing the program during the ceremony on May 21, in Kansas City, Missouri.

“It is symbolic that one of our nation’s first paramedics awarded our graduates—some of the nation’s newest EMS personnel—the challenge coins that welcome them to the EMS family at UMKC School of Medicine,” said EMS Education Program Director Paul Ganss.

UMKC’s EMS students are themselves members of a pioneering generation, training alongside medical students and residents within UMKC’s School of Medicine. While the students are in separate programs, they regularly interact with each other in the school’s Clinical Skills Training Center. The unique program is now in its third year, offering initial EMT and paramedic courses as well as continuing education.

Medical students, residents and faculty also attended the Freedom House screening.

Starzenski, who just retired from a four-decade career as a set medic on numerous, big-budget films, has screened Freedom House at numerous venues, stressing the production’s social and historic message. Since the film was completed several years ago, Starzenski has sought a distributor. Now he is raising funds for a 30-minute, condensed version of the Freedom House story for educators.

Both Starzenski and McCary enjoyed their 3-day visit to the Kansas City metro area, sampling the city’s famous barbecue and meeting rescue personnel throughout the city. McCary, now 66 and decades removed from running calls as a paramedic, nonetheless enjoyed trying out simulation equipment in UMKC’s clinical skills lab. He especially got a kick out of seeing the high-fidelity mannequins and even intubated one with a KingVision laryngoscope.

“I had to shake some the rust loose on myself before I could get the tube in,” McCary laughed. “It’s been awhile since I even held a laryngoscope. Now, it has a view screen, so (the technique) is different, but the skill came back. I think it’s amazing how far this profession has come.”

This is second screening of Freedom House to commemorate the newest generation of EMS providers. In 2012, graduates of St. Paul (Minn.) Fire Department’s EMS Academy were lauded by several veterans from Freedom House Ambulance Service. The service had begun a training initiative to recruit minorities to the EMS profession, similar to that pioneered by Freedom House Ambulance Service. Their story is featured in the March 2013 issue of JEMS.

For more information on the Freedom House documentary, or to schedule an appearance, please see the film’s website, at www.freedomhousedoc.com.


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