EMS Assistant Chief John McFarland, who served the EMS Command for more than 28 years and led many innovations that changed nationwide emergency medical services, died on Feb. 6 after battling a brain tumor.
"The things that stand out to me were his leadership qualities as a visionary and patient advocate," said former Chief of EMS Andy McCracken. "He always looked into technology to improve performance and patient care."
Chief McFarland joined EMS as an EMT in 1983. He studied to become a paramedic in 1985 and was assigned to cover Manhattan. Four years later, he was promoted to lieutenant. He worked in Operations and Training before being promoted again - to captain - in 1997.
He held different positions both at FDNY Headquarters and the EMS Academy before being promoted to Deputy Chief in 2001. He then served as Chief of the Academy and Chief of Division 4. He then became Queens Borough Commander in 2003, followed by Deputy Assistant Chief of Field Operations in 2004. He retired in 2011.
In his time with EMS, he responded to many notable incidents, including the World Trade Center terrorist attacks of 1993 and 2001, US Airways Flight 1549 that landed on the Hudson, two plane crashes at LaGuardia Airport and the steam pipe explosion in Midtown Manhattan.
"He was a pioneer, striving for top-quality medical care that anyone could provide on the street, as well as the most up-to-date medical care," said FDNY Chief Medical Officer David Prezant. "He wanted to make sure that the FDNY EMS Command was the best in the world."
He added that Chief McFarland was always pushing for the FDNY to make use of the latest innovations and technologies, including STEMI and hypothermia therapy (which transport certain patients to hospitals that can best treat their injuries). He also never forgot what it was like to work as a paramedic or EMT on the streets, and always strived to find ways to make their lives easier.
"He really viewed EMS as a lifeline for the people of NYC," Dr. Prezant said.
While Assistant Chief John Peruggia lauded Chief McFarland's emphasis on patient care, he also remembered how much he loved his family - including his wife, EMS Captain Joann, and daughters Katherine, 28, Megan, 24, Rebecca, 7, John, 5, and Joseph, 4.
Chief McCracken said he was deeply saddened by the passing of his longtime colleague and friend, but said he was happy he had the chance to know such an innovative thinker and kindhearted man: "It was an honor and pleasure to know John, and I can't say enough about him. I'm just happy that the last time I saw him that he still had that great smile and positive outlook on life, his family and job he loved."