2020 ODEMSA Regional EMS Council Award Winners Announced

12 Regional EMS Award Winners were Announced via Facebook LIVE in a Mock News Broadcast that Highlighted Each Category

The 2020 Old Dominion Emergency Medical Service Alliance (ODEMSA) Regional EMS Award winners were announced at the 2020 ODEMSA Regional EMS Council Awards Ceremony on Facebook LIVE on November 2, 2020.  The event was presented as a mock news broadcast with each award category receiving a news story and the winner’s announcement. The ODEMSA Staff acted as field reporters, news anchors, and there were even over the top weather segments throughout the broadcast. During the broadcast, staff members recognized and presented awards to the 12 outstanding individuals and organizations from Virginia Health Planning Districts 13, 14, 15, and 19 for their exceptional achievements and dedication to the EMS system across the region, state, and nation.

“While we were unable to hold our awards as we normally would due to the pandemic, we are so excited to be able to provide the awards in such a unique and engaging way,” said Heidi Hooker, Executive Director, Old Dominion EMS Alliance. “Our region continues to prove that we have professionals and organizations that continue to exceed the mark of excellence, and we are delighted to recognize them for all that they do every single day.  Congratulations to all of this year’s regional level award winners and good luck to them as their regional awards move them into the running for this year’s Governor’s EMS Awards that will be held by the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services at a later date.”

The 2020 Regional EMS Award winners are:

  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Excellence in EMS
    • Allen Yee, MD, VCU Health Systems and Chesterfield County Fire & EMS
  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Innovation Excellence in EMS
    • Jeffrey Ferguson, MD, VCU Health Systems and Henrico County Division of Fire
  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Leadership
    • Michael Colman, Richmond Ambulance Authority
  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Physician with Outstanding Contribution to EMS
    • Joseph P. Ornato, MD, VCU Health Systems and Richmond Ambulance Authority
  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Nurse with Outstanding Contribution to EMS
    • Katherine M. Schulz, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU
  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Prehospital Educator
    • Adam Alford, VCU Health Systems Center for Trauma & Critical Care Education
  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Prehospital Provider
    • Sarah McDaniel, Richmond Ambulance Authority
  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Health and Safety
    • Cory S. Bernardo, Richmond Ambulance Authority
  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS for Children
    • Steven R. Rasmussen, VCU Health Systems
  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Agency
    • Ashland Volunteer Rescue Squad
  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Telecommunication
    • Tammy Sue Witt, Goochland County Sherriff’s Office

An additional award is presented to recognize the outstanding contributions to EMS by a high school senior. This is a scholarship award provided by the Old Dominion EMS Alliance:

  • The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS by a High School Senior – William Andrews of Bensley-Bermuda Volunteer Rescue Squad

Award for Excellence in EMS

The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Excellence in EMS was presented to Dr. Allen Yee. Allen’s commitment to emergency medicine is showcased by the number of local, regional, state, and international obligations, illustrating his lifetime of dedication to medicine, in particular emergency medical services. Dr. Yee was previously recognized in 2008, with the Governor’s Award for Outstanding EMS Physician, after receiving the ODEMSA award in the same category that year.

Dr. Yee is a recognized expert in EMS and is board certified in both Emergency Medicine and Emergency Medical Services. He also serves as an Assistant Professor with Virginia Commonwealth University Health Systems, specifically working with EMS Fellows.

Allen is committed to the continuous improvement of EMS within the Commonwealth and applying true system principles to EMS practice. Along with his service on the Governor’s Advisory Board for EMS (two tenures, including currently as the Patient Care Coordinator), Yee serves as the chair of the state’s Mobile Integrated Healthcare workgroup, striving to implement innovative EMS solutions statewide. Additionally, Dr. Yee uses his stature in the national EMS arena to advocate for Virginia EMS through leadership positions with NHTSA, NAEMSP, and AAEM. Allen’s involvement in the development and application of best practices for tactical medicine as a member of the Board of Directors of the Committee of Tactical Emergency Casualty Care demonstrates his desire to improve specialized EMS care on both a state and national level. His services on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Opioids shows a commitment to ensuring Virginia EMS has input in the solutions to the opioid crisis.

Finally, his role as Regional Medical Director for the Old Dominion EMS Alliance (ODEMSA), a role he’s held for the past ten years, allows Allen to pull upon his experience and expertise to guide regional protocol and policies on all topics EMS. Most recently, he’s guided the region through their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yee is the

The committee felt that Dr. Yee deserved this esteemed accolade due to his lifetime dedication, energetic personality, innovative ideas, and commitment to both EMS leadership and field practice. His high energy level for improving EMS can be seen in the vast array of EMS-related activities he takes on. From implementing innovative solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic to providing medical oversight and actively participating in tactical medical support to law enforcement partners. Allen has an unquenchable thirst for EMS and leading providers towards excellence. In addition to all his work on regional, state, and national committees, Dr. Yee continues to actively train and deploy as a member of Virginia Task Force 2 while serving as the Regional Medical Director (RMD) for the ODEMSA Region and Operational Medical Director (OMD) for multiple agencies, including Chesterfield Fire and EMS.

Award for Innovation Excellence in EMS

The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Innovation Excellence in EMS was presented to Dr. Jeffrey Ferguson, with the Henrico County Division of Fire. In 2020 the Office of EMS created this new category to highlight innovations in emergency medical services. The Award Selection Committee felt the program implemented with Henrico Fire was innovative in the way it handled the COVID-19 pandemic.  The program Jeff helped to implement placed a Communication Fire Officer in the County’s Communication Center to prescreen calls. The program also brought in school nurses from the county’s public schools to assist, developed flowcharts, and a system of questions used when calling back to gather more information on a call. All of this was put in place to help protect first responders from possible exposure to COVID-19 before they arrived on the scene to protect themselves and others better.

Jeff started volunteering at a very young age and figured out that emergency medicine was what drove him. Getting into medicine was through his volunteer efforts in EMS, and now that he can give back, it is a significant driver to this day. EMS care is his passion, and extending what is available in the hospital out to the patient’s bedside excites him. Dr. Ferguson is an emergency physician for VCU Health Systems. He is still the Operational Medical Director for multiple agencies, including Richmond Raceway, RVA Rescue, Virginia State Police Medflight-I, and Henrico County Division of Fire.

Intending to minimize exposure and “flatten the curve” of COVID-19, Dr. Jeffrey Ferguson, Operational Medical Director of Henrico County Division of Fire, enlisted his service and expertise in helping respond to the pandemic.

From the onset, the goal of Henrico Fire was to reduce the spread of infection and to protect the providers and the community that they serve. Dr. Ferguson and Henrico Fire examined the ever-changing CDC recommendations and watched other states and agencies adjust to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases. With goals in place, Henrico Fire and Dr. Ferguson developed a multi-faceted plan to help protect the community that would start with the 911 call to the dispatch center.

With the installation of a Communication’s Fire Officer (CFO) in the 911 dispatch center, Dr. Ferguson saw the potential for prescreening 911 callers. He developed a “call back” program for 911 callers concerned about the virus or who were worried about seeking treatment at the hospital. This triage model became extremely useful with the aid of Henrico County Schools, who allowed their nurses to work in the communication center. Dr. Ferguson trained these nurses, and together with the CFO, this team called back all non-critical patients and prescreened the patient before EMS arrival.

The nurses and/or the CFO in the Communications Center would address any concerns the patient or family members may have, ask the caller to locate an entrance, or, if possible, to meet EMS personnel outside and apply a mask patient had one available. In many cases, the nurse/CFO team was able to identify COVID-19 symptoms that were not identified in the initial 911 prescreening process. This gave EMS providers early warnings and allowed them to don the correct level of PPE. For patients who refused transport, the nurse would call to follow up with the patients and email the caller information on preventing the spread of COVID-19 and education when it was essential to call 911 again.

This program has been an enormous success, and in the latter stages of the pandemic, the nurses were returned to their regular job functions. The Division has seen the impact of having a CFO in the 911 center, and the “call back” program has continued. Another phase of this program was adding alternative response units. These units were staffed with a medic and a driver who would respond to low acuity COVID-19 related calls that the nurses or CFO flagged when the patient/caller wished to evaluate further. These units’ purpose was to ensure adequate evaluation and treatment while minimizing unnecessary transports and related exposure.

Award for Outstanding EMS Leadership

The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Leadership was presented to Michael Colman, Chief Operating Officer for Richmond Ambulance Authority. Michael was selected for this award for his demonstrated ability to organize, conduct, manage, problem solve and evaluate within the Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) and, by providing leadership and administrative skills that have helped to improve the effectiveness, response, and delivery of EMS in the City of Richmond.

In the past two years, Michael has made the agency’s top priorities to improve response times and increase the agency’s resources efficiency. After evaluating the dispatch protocols used by RAA, Michael worked with the RAA Director of Quality Assurance and Improvement to identify several call types that should not have been categorized as Priority 1 calls in the system. This was accomplished by moving the classification of calls triaged as high priority to a lower level based on treatment and conditions through EPCR evaluations. As a result, more of the agency’s resources were made available for more severe emergency calls, improving response times to those calls, and lower acuity calls in the overall system.

Michael also worked with staff members to implement changes to an RAA protocol, allowing Advanced Life Support (ALS) providers to care for 9-1-1 patients being transported to the emergency department. He analyzed statistical data and determined many of RAA’s 9-1-1 transports could be properly managed by EMT or Advanced certified providers. By expanding the patient care responsibilities of their EMT and Advanced providers, RAA decreased the workload for Paramedic providers. This, in turn, allowed providers to be utilized better while expanding their patient care responsibilities, leading to improved recruitment and retention.

The changes to RAA’s ALS protocol and the re-categorization of calls as Priority 1 were significant shifts for the agency to improve patient, employee, and community outcomes. This was proven with a decrease in Priority 1 calls by over 20%.

Award for Nurse with Outstanding Contribution to EMS

The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Nurse with Outstanding Contribution to EMS was presented to Katherine M. Schulz. Kate is a Registered Nurse and is the Pediatric Trauma Quality Coordinator for Children’s Hospital of Richmond (CHoR) at VCU. She has also been a part of the EMS community for many years before becoming an RN.

In the past, Kate has enjoyed working with EMS crews to help them understand the fine points of trauma to improve their skills and become better providers. She would assist with the facilitation of CEU dinners with HCA, which provided beneficial training for EMS providers. In her current position with CHoR, she continually provides feedback and training to support EMS crews transporting patients to the CHoR facility. She is always ready to help when needed by providing EMS providers with opportunities to communicate with hospital staff openly and honestly to improve communications.

Kate currently serves on the ODEMSA Peer Support/CISM team as an RN responder for those in need of the mental health healing that the team can provide through training, knowledge, and experience. She has also been active in educating EMS providers on how they can make an impact by participating in the Stop the Bleed Campaign taking place across Central Virginia and was a former committee member of the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services’ State Medevac Committee.

Kate may not be an EMS field provider, but she remembers where she came from. Kate remains connected to the field of EMS and advocates for EMS when she can.

Award for Physician with Outstanding Contribution to EMS

The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Physician with Outstanding Contribution to EMS was presented to Dr. Joseph P. Ornato of VCU Health Systems. Dr. Ornato is triple board-certified, is the past chairman of the American Heart Association’s National Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee and its Advanced Cardiac Life Support Subcommittee. He also serves on several various committees and is editor of the journal “Resuscitation.”

Dr. Ornato serves as the consultant and chairman of the National Institutes of Health’s Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium and serves as the Principal Investigator for VCU on the National Institutes of Health-sponsored Neurological Emergency Treatment Trials Network, is a professor of emergency medicine at VCU Health Systems, and is the Operational Medical Director for the Richmond Ambulance Authority.

In 2019, Dr. Ornato submitted a grant application to the NIH’s National Institute of Drug Abuse to develop and test seven RAA dispatchers’ ability to be trained as FAA-certified commercial drone pilots. The program intends to deliver FDA-approved, intranasal spray Naloxone antidote to bystander 9-1-1 callers at the scene of an opioid overdose while first responders and paramedics are racing to the victim.

Just five drones placed throughout Richmond could deliver the antidote to the caller within two minutes or less. Dr. Ornato has soon to be published data from a completed VCU simulation study showing that laypersons can fetch a drone from outside a building, return to the victim, and administer the antidote to a simulated manikin victim under RAA dispatcher direction in 2 minutes from 9-1-1 contact. Since EMS responders can’t physically reach the victim until an average of 8-9 minutes after dispatch, reversing the overdose 5-6 minutes sooner has great potential to save more lives.

Dr. Ornato is preeminent in the world of resuscitation, with the Journal of Emergency Medical Services describing him as the “undisputed leader in EMS and ED use of coordinated team resuscitation practices.” Dr. Ornato will now devote his efforts to advancing both preclinical and clinical research and innovations with the Weil Institute.

Award for Outstanding Prehospital Educator

The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding Prehospital Educator was presented to J. Adam Alford of VCU CTCCE. Adam is an educator that is not only dedicated to his students but also the region and state. He has a way of explaining complex topics that are engaging, motivational, and entertaining.

His development of an EMT hybrid program is currently used for both the ODEMSA and VCU CTCCE hybrid EMT programs and has helped train and prepare nearly 100 students since its inception. His knowledge and abilities have been instrumental in facilitating the VCU Paramedic Program’s transition to the online environment during the ongoing pandemic, with minimal interruptions to the classroom experience.

Adam is a member of the ODEMSA Training and Education Committee and the National Association of EMS Educators Research Committee. He is currently leading a workgroup to develop a Regional Educator’s Summit scheduled for November 13th, which is planned to feature the region’s best instructors to share their best practices for teaching EMS courses. Adam teaches, but he is involved with the review of the information that his students receive and has been a peer reviewer for multiple EMS related texts.

Award for Outstanding Prehospital Provider

The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding Prehospital Provider was presented to Sarah McDaniel of Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA).  Sarah was selected because she exemplifies outstanding dedication and service to her community through involvement with EMS.

Sarah has been a paramedic with Richmond Ambulance Authority for two years consistently arrives with a positive attitude, ready to take on and exceed in her role and responsibilities as a provider. Before coming to the Richmond Ambulance Authority, Sarah educated children in pre-school and grades 4th through 6th while volunteering with her local fire department. She worked her way to BLS crew leader on her shift and BLS instructor within the department.

In 2017 she obtained her Intermediate and finished her paramedic in 2018. She began working for Richmond Ambulance shortly after that. Sarah is a mentor and a steadfast employee of RAA who delivers quality patient care to every patient. She has a high return of spontaneous circulation in cases of cardiac arrest achieved by expertly following protocols.

In 2020 Sarah was recognized as RAA’s Paramedic of the Year. She is an excellent role model for her coworkers and consistently delivers exceptional patient care. She is an asset to the agency and the Richmond community.

Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Health and Safety

The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Health and Safety was presented to Cory S. Bernardo, Logistics Manager for Richmond Ambulance Authority.  

Through a Compliance Monitoring program initiated by Cory, Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) uses a Luminometer device to test random surface areas on RAA’s ambulances and determine the effectiveness of the agency’s cleaning methods. While the program confirmed RAA was meeting decontamination and cleanliness standards for EMS providers, Cory took the initiative to improve the agency’s current decontamination and cleaning practices.

After thoroughly researching, he found a state-of-the-art sprayer and solution that killed bacteria and germs more effectively than ever before. This was accomplished by the sprayer positively charging the cleaning solution as it exited the nozzle in a mist. The positively charged particles then were attracted to the surfaces allowing the cleaning solution to envelop the surrounding surfaces, killing germs and bacteria more thoroughly and reaching places RAA’s previous disinfectants and cleaning supplies could not reach.

The program was implemented well in advance of the threat of COVID-19 in the U.S. Since the pandemic, RAA has continued to utilize this state-of-the-art testing and cleaning to ensure that both patients and providers limit possible exposure to viruses and bacteria.

Initial testing has shown that RAA’s sprayers and cleaning solutions have drastically improved the effectiveness of decontaminating and cleaning ambulances and RAA’s work environment. The level of bacteria and germs show to be exponentially lower, and the surface area treated is much larger. This level of disinfection benefits RAA’s employees, patients, and the public at large as it helps prevent the spread of germs and viruses, including the flu and novel coronavirus.

It is clear that through Compliance Monitoring use of the Luminometer measuring device and the implementation of the sprayers and cleaning solution, RAA has drastically increased its ability to effectively and efficiently decontaminate ambulances. As a result of Cory’s efforts, the Richmond Ambulance Authority’s employees, patients, and the public are safer from community spread due to the enhanced decontamination process. Bernardo’s innovative approach has also been recognized throughout the healthcare industry as EMS agencies and hospitals have contacted RAA from across the country for more information about the RAA initiative to make their ambulances and work environment cleaner and safer.

Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS for Children

The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS for Children was presented to Steven R. Rasmussen of VCU Health Systems. Steve has been an advocate for EMS for children for a substantial time in Virginia. He moved to Richmond, VA, back in 1997, bringing his knowledge and experience from Illinois. Like most in the healthcare field, he has amassed an alphabet soup of degrees, credentials, and memberships during his career.

Rasmussen has been a member of the Virginia EMS Symposium Planning Committee since 2001. For the past couple of years, he has co-chaired the pediatric track for the symposium, helping expand the number of pediatric topics taught at the annual prehospital conference.

Steve has pushed for superior pediatrics training for EMS providers both locally and on the state level. He believes that there is a need to develop EMS providers interested in pediatrics and educate them to become “Pediatric Champions.”

Steve is very modest and referred to what he does as a team sport and went on to explain that the MVP can’t win the game without the team. He stressed that everything that has been accomplished in the field of EMS for Children has been by working collaboratively with others to accomplish a goal and that it has never just been him.

There is no doubt that Steve has helped define the path and steer the ship for enhanced medical care for children both in EMS and other emergency medicine aspects.

Award for Outstanding EMS Agency

The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding EMS Agency was presented to Ashland Volunteer Rescue Squad (AVRS). They continue a 70-year tradition of providing dependable and professional service to their community. AVRS is located just off interstate 95 in Ashland, Virginia, and they have been active in their community, county, region, and state.

In 2019, Ashland Volunteer Rescue Squad members volunteered nearly 13,000 hours and responded to over 1,100 calls for service. This made them the fourth busiest station overall in Hanover County and the busiest volunteer EMS station. They are on pace to exceed last year’s numbers and have increased their coverage by 25%, while a third of their active members have been restricted from volunteering due to COVID-19.

Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Telecommunications

The ODEMSA Regional EMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS Telecommunications was presented to Tammy Sue Witt of Goochland County Sherriff’s Office. Tammy has been with the county for 22 years and is a communications supervisor that leads a team of Communications Officers who provide services to the county of Goochland. Tammy was instrumental in bringing Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) to Goochland County, and she brings a wealth of knowledge to her profession. Tammy is also a training officer, and she regularly spends time training other Communications Officers with passion and a commitment to excellence.

In 2019, Tammy was awarded the “Communications Officer of the Year” award by the Dewitt Clinton Masonic Lodge. She is a volunteer member of the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad and has been volunteering with them since 2018. She also sits on two committees as a reviewer for EMD dispatching involving multiple agencies. This experience is invaluable to her craft, and it is clear that Tammy brings excellence to her profession in many ways.

Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS by a High School Senior

The ODEMSA Regional Award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS by a High School Senior was presented to William Andrews of Bensley-Bermuda Volunteer Rescue Squad.  This award was presented along with a scholarship for $1,000 from ODEMSA.

Having been brought up in a family of EMTs, Andrew just thought it was something he was supposed to do. After hearing family members’ stories about EMS, he was confident that becoming an EMT would be engaging, thrilling, and above all, rewarding. Though he credits his family, his motivation to become an EMT was to broaden his medical field experience. Little did he know that he would fall in love with every aspect of being a volunteer EMS provider in his quest to explore medicine. When he enrolled in an EMT class and joined Bensley-Bermuda Volunteer Rescue Squad, he was hooked. Andrew has accomplished his goal of becoming an EMT and volunteering along with other activities, all while maintaining a high academic standing with a GPA of 4.34.

Andrew’s enthusiasm and “can do” attitude has left an impression with his agency leadership, ODEMSA, and others from across the region. Not only does he find it fulfilling to give back to his community, but he also finds it incredibly rewarding to be able to serve the Commonwealth through his service with the Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads as the 2020 Junior Vice President. He takes pride in his dedication to his medical knowledge because he knows it makes a difference in his patient’s life, his community, and in the world of EMS across the state that he proudly serves.


About the Old Dominion Emergency Medical Services Alliance

Established in 1978, the Old Dominion EMS Alliance (ODEMSA) is a nonprofit charged by state law to assist in developing and implementing an efficient and effective EMS delivery system. There are a total of 11 Regional EMS Councils across the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Old Dominion EMS Alliance is one of the largest and most diverse and is defined as the 9,000-square-mile region made up of Virginia Health Planning Districts 13, 14, 15, and 19.  The region involves 26 hospitals, over 100 EMS agencies, and over 6,000 EMS providers. Our service area includes the counties of:  Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charles City, Charlotte, Chesterfield, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Halifax, Hanover, Henrico, Goochland, Greensville, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, New Kent, Nottoway, Powhatan, Prince Edward, Prince George, Surry, Sussex; the cities of Colonial Heights, Emporia, Hopewell, Petersburg, Richmond, and South Boston; and the towns of Ashland, Farmville, and South Hill. Standing Committees within the ODEMSA structure include Air Medical, Peer Support/CISM, Hospital Diversion, Medical Direction, Mass Casualty Incident (MCI), Pharmacy, Performance Improvement, Training and Education, STEMI Steering, and Stroke Steering.

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