Vision, inspiration and mentorship: These are more than just words—they’re the essential ingredients to a cultivate talent in our field of emergency medicine.
I benefitted from this cultivation early in my EMS career as an EMT at Cypress Creek (Texas) EMS and firefighter with Champions Fire Department just outside of Houston. Had it not been for the mentors in my life more than two decades ago—who taught me that mediocrity wasn’t good enough—I doubt I’d be where I am today. I doubt I would’ve had the fuel to endure all of the challenges, criticism and sacrifices that lead me to become a medical director.
Mentorship has provided me with not just the clinical and operational skills to be successful in EMS, but also the encouragement to innovate, develop and lead. In my 25 years in EMS, there’s nothing that’s been more rewarding and meaningful than conveying a vision and providing the fertilizer to encourage the growth of young EMTs, college students, medical students and residents.
Planting the Seeds
In 1996, with the help of my brother and two close friends, I co-founded Rice EMS—a collegiate first responder EMS organization that serves Rice University and the surrounding community. In October 2016, I stood in front of a room of physicians, nurses, EMS directors, state officials, diplomats and other federal officials at a gala celebrating 20 years of service by Rice EMS. I delivered the keynote to a room full of current and alumni Rice EMTs—once college students, now matured leaders.
My heart swelled with pride as I looked through the crowd and thought about how each person is engaged in a lifelong mission of excellence, inspired by organizations like Rice EMS.
Inspiring others is why I take the time to have meetings with the Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) Explorers, a group of bright-eyed teens who’ve demonstrated interest and enthusiasm in EMS. It’s also why I brought a small group of student leaders from the University of Texas (UT), Austin, to meet with senior EMS command staff about starting UT-Austin’s EMS first responder organization. And it’s the motivation behind giving a “20 year vision for the service” speech to every EMT and paramedic in ATCEMS as the new medical director.
Locking it In
Inspiration and mentorship of young members of our communities are vital to recruiting intelligent, enthusiastic people and securing their future with a meaningful career. By fostering a student’s interest in EMS, you’re giving them the guidance to invest in something significant at a time in life when they have both time and fervor on their side.
The future of our field is dependent on people wanting to be great, striving to be more and do more, and passionately pursuing higher levels within their careers. They never get complacent, never get stagnate. However, these people will be lost in the mix if we choose to wait till it’s too late to try and inspire them.
There’s benefit in trying to inspire the 20- or 30-year veteran to “be more” or “change their ways;” in finding the enthusiastic students at the college down the street and teaching them how to create a world-class service from which generations of leaders can be recruited. There’s tremendous benefit in walking onto the scene of a stroke and teaching newly certified paramedics to be confident in their assessment skills, to trust their judgment and improve their diagnostic capabilities without fear of reprimand.
There’s tremendous benefit in all of these things because they’re done early, when the ability to impart change is present—when the soil is tilled and the earth is fresh and able to cultivate. An old Chinese proverb says the best time to plant a seed is 100 years ago; the next best time is today. I encourage each of you to plant your seeds today and reap the benefits for generations to come.