JEMS Editor Emeritus A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P, has been awarded the 2019 James O. Page/JEMS Leadership Award at the EMS Today conference in Tampa, Florida.
The award, sponsored by Hartwell Medical, recognizes an individual or organization who exhibits the drive and tenacious effort to resolve important EMS issues or brings about positive change in an EMS system, often at great personal or professional sacrifice. The award is named after JEMS founder James O. Page.
A.J. has served in multiple rolesin 26 years, including Director of the Emergency Care Information Center and the Conference Division before taking on the title as Editor-in-Chief of JEMS and Editorial Director for JEMS, Fire-Rescue Magazine, Public Safety Communications and Law Officer magazines, as well as the EMS Insider management newsletter.
In these capacities, A.J. led the development of important, cutting-edge editorial content for the EMS, fire, rescue and law enforcement community. However, there is much that you don’t know about A.J.’s leadership contributions over the past five decades.
A.J.’s father, his first mentor, was the founder and commanding officer of the fire department’s ambulance division in Scranton, Pennsylvania. A recognized leader in EMS development in the 50s, 60s and 70s, A.J.’s father involved him in EMS operational and administrative areas from the age of 10, sneaking him along on ambulance runs — to the strong objections of his mother.
His dad persevered and immersed A.J, in the problems and solutions for improvement of ambulance development and operations.
Immediately after graduating from Temple University in 1975, A.J. found a way to get involved in regional and nation EMS system development and leadership, landing an EMS development position with the Comprehensive Health Planning Board in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The Federal EMS Systems Act of 1973 established components and requirements for regional EMS systems and offered grant funds for system development. A.J. soon developed the first EMS System plan for Eastern Pennsylvania, led the incorporation of the Eastern PA EMS Council to become a recipient of federal funding and rapidly promoted to the Executive Director post for the regional EMS Council.
From 1975 to 1992, A.J. managed and developed the Eastern PA System, a six-county, 110 ambulance service region that served 1.2 million people into a model system for the federal government’s EMS System Development Program overseen by Dr. David Boyd.
In the late 70s, long before it was acceptable or achievable in most parts of America, A.J. led the process for the regional standardization of ambulance medical and communications equipment, mass casualty response practices, and most importantly, the categorization and designation of a Level 1, 2 and 3 trauma centers, a regional burn center, and pediatric critical care and cardiac care centers.
During A.J.’s tenure at Eastern PA EMS, he obtained over 11 million dollars in state, federal and local grants, foundation funding and county budget contributions to develop and expand the regional EMS System.
In 1976, A.J. met Jim Page at a cardiac care conference and, because of his passion for system development and innovative leadership style, soon had Jim as his EMS leadership mentor. Jim soon got A.J. immersed in state and federal committee meetings and programs to expand his knowledge to further develop the Eastern PA System and lead in the establishment of national initiatives.
In 1980, A.J. led the process for development of a model, regional advanced medical communications system named MEDCOM. He secured $2.5 million dollars for its implementation and convinced all six county governments, and 15 hospital facilities, to join the system and help fund its development and ongoing maintenance.
While serving in his EMS leadership position with the EMS Council, A.J. also served as a paramedic and command officer for the Bethlehem Township Volunteer Fire Dept.
While at Bethlehem Township, A.J. helped develop and supervise the “Medic One” Paramedic Response System, patterned after the Seattle Medic One System, which provided ALS service to 11 urban, suburban and rural municipalities.
In 1992, A.J. got the itch to get into EMS operations on a full-time basis and became the first Director of Operations for Cetronia Ambulance, a large multi-county, multi-function, paid and volunteer non-profit EMS service in Allentown, Pa.
While at Cetronia, A.J. developed the service’s first System Status Management operation, Mass Casualty Incident response plan and REHAB operations that served 10 fire districts in Lehigh County, Pa.
While working on his master’s degree in Public Administration at Lehigh University in 1980, A.J. was challenged to improve one of the most uncoordinated aspects of his occupation. He chose the management of mass casualty incidents and went on to develop an incident command and control system for MCI that has now become a national model.
In 1995 Jim Page and Keith Griffiths convinced A.J. and his wife to move to San Diego and take his leadership success and innovative ideas onto the pages of JEMS through the development of cutting-edge content and authors to articulate it to JEMS international readership.
The rest is history.
JEMS continued to offer the most trusted information in the EMS industry under A.J.’s leadership. A.J. led the JEMS editorial team that received 16 MAGGIE Awards from the Western Publishing Association (WPA), including Best Magazine in the Health Care Trade magazine category four years in a row.
A.J. personally went to Littleton, Colorado after the first major school shooting in America at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, to get the first-hand account of EMS personnel action. He wrote the award-winning article, Assault on Columbine, which was a wake-up call for EMS managers to develop active-shooter plans and on-scene command and control. And, when no one was reporting on the heroic efforts of EMS responders on 9-11, and the tragic death of EMS personnel, A.J. went to New York City, New Jersey, and Arlington, Virginia and led the editorial team that presented the untold story of their efforts in the award-winning JEMS Supplement Courage Under Fire.