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Sacred Cows and Data Cubes: We Speak ‘Living Room:’ Education & Economics in Fire-Based EMS, from Milwaukee to London and Back

Jonathon Feit interviews Joshua Parish, Deputy Chief of Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Milwaukee Fire Dept.

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Deputy Chief Joshua Parish of the Milwaukee (WI) Fire Department checks multiple “diversity” boxes as a Black man in an overwhelmingly white industry, who has risen through the ranks as an unabashed iconoclast.

He has a master’s degree from the venerable London School of Economics in an industry that is torn about the fundamental question of whether post-high school education should be considered a “must have.”

Previous: Sacred Cows & Data Cubes: COVID-19 Contact Tracing

He is passionate about honing a worldly perspective and loves losing himself in new locales with no choice but to adapt and seek empathy.

It turns out, this same blend of characteristics makes for an excellent medic, because in the real world, biology and chemistry often come secondary to psychology and sociology: understanding human nature.

Following a deep-dive into his origin story, Chief Parish discusses strategies for turning “samurai swords” into “Gerber tools” when training team members – evolving from experts in a single function to team members who can flex as a community’s needs evolve – as a way of “future-proofing ourselves.” 

Also: Ensuring that mobile medical personnel, in management and on the line alike, reflect — and embrace — the mosaic of the communities in which they operate is “good for business” when it comes to recruiting high-potential candidates.

It helps when, say, convincing citizens to stay inside and wear a mask; or to manage diabetes both as a matter of self-care and as a way to show appreciation for their caregivers.

Perhaps most poignant, he reminds us that we need to talk about failures if we are going to learn from them.

In this timely, no-holds-barred interview, Chief Parish explains his approach to language and culture, to relationship-building, and to research (including the need for additional rigor) – these have swirled into a strange brew against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly in Wisconsin, where racial and socioeconomic tensions followed a shooting during protests in nearby Kenosha.