HELENA — The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) honored Montana Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel from Bridger, Conrad, Cooke City, Hardin, Thompson Falls, and Plentywood during an awards ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda Wednesday, May 19th.
The event included an address by Governor Greg Gianforte to representatives from Clarks Fork Valley Ambulance, Pondera County Ambulance, Cooke City-Silvergate Emergency Services, Big Horn County Ambulance, Sheridan County 911, and Thompson Falls Ambulance.
This event was part of National Emergency Medical Services Week held May 16-20th, and EMS for Children Day on May 19th. The Governor’s Proclamation is here.
DPHHS Director Adam Meier said it’s an honor to recognize Montana’s EMS responders for responding to crisis situations and the role they play in the community.
“EMS responders are there to answer the call seven days a week at all hours of the night,” Meier said. “We could never thank them enough for being there when time is of the essence in the multitude of emergency situations they face. Many of these individuals volunteer in their community at local sporting events, vaccine clinics, and more.”
Nominated by their peers, awards were presented to (according to a press release by DPHHS):
- Volunteer EMS Provider of the Year Award, Roger Steffan, Clarks Fork Valley Ambulance, Bridger. This award honors a volunteer EMS provider who is exemplary in his/her quality of patient care and dedication to their community.
About Roger Steffan:
Steffan has been an EMS volunteer provider since 1995. In 1996, he expanded his expertise to include paramedic education. He volunteers for standby events such as local football games and most recently, COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
Bridger’s Amy Goltz, Registered Nurse, states: “I have never seen someone care so much for their community as him. He puts community above himself.”
- Career EMS Provider of the Year Award, Ruth Erickson, Pondera County Ambulance, Conrad. This award is for a career EMS provider who exemplifies quality of care and dedication to the community.
About Ruth Erickson:
Erickson has been an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for Pondera County Ambulance for 28 years, primarily as the service manager. She was instrumental in kicking off Pondera County Ambulance’s Pediatric Readiness program.
Conrad’s Ria French, Critical Care Transport Paramedic, states: “I have never met, nor worked with anyone with such a dedication and devotion to helping her community, her team and her patients.”
- EMS Service of the Year Award, Cooke City-Silvergate Emergency Services, Cooke City. An EMS service of the year exhibits dedication to improving patient care through education, injury prevention, community awareness, medical director involvement and collaboration with surrounding EMS services.
About Cooke City-Silvergate Emergency Services:
Cooke City-Silvergate Emergency Services is a volunteer, non-transporting EMS agency in the remote community of Cooke City. The community serves nearly 70 winter residents and 200 summer residents, and experiences an influx of over 300,000 visitors per year as the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The nearest medical facility for this community is over three hours away by ground. Over 2020, Cooke City-Silvergate Emergency Services worked tirelessly with the Park County Public Health Department to provide COVID-19 information, testing and vaccination to the community.
It is not uncommon for the volunteers to spend 8-10 hours on a single EMS call out for assistance in the backcountry, enduring frigid temperatures and deep snow conditions.
Troy Wilson, Chief of Cooke City Emergency Services, states: “I am nominating the Volunteer Cooke City-Silvergate EMS Team for their outstanding resilience during COVID-19 and their continuation and dedication for improving the EMS services to the Cooke City, Silvergate, and Colter Pass communities. Not only were our volunteers on the frontline of EMS calls during COVID-19, but they took it upon themselves to work with the Park County Health Department to provide testing every week at the Cooke City Firehall, and then later offered rapid testing for the fall and winter season."
- EMS Supporter of the Year Award, Dr. James Upchurch, Hardin. This award honors an individual who has demonstrated exceptional support for EMS, EMS agencies and the broader EMS system.
About Dr. James Upchurch:
Dr. Upchurch is the Medical Director for Big Horn County Ambulance in Hardin and has been active in that role since 1986. He conducts monthly quality improvements with his crew to improve care for the next patient.
Dr. Upchurch has been a constant supporter of rural EMS. He has provided remote paramedic education to many ECPs in Montana. Dr. Upchurch is a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians and a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Practice. He also holds a Montana Paramedic License #2.
Hardin’s Lisa Fisher states: "Dr. Upchurch is an excellent Medical Director. He will take time out of his own schedule to attend and review reports at every monthly Quality Improvement meeting to improve our care and our service. He is an excellent supporter of this EMS agency and community. The time and patience he provides each EMT or paramedic and his own patients is invaluable."
- 911 Dispatcher of the Year Award, Ruth Lagerquist, Plentywood.
This award recognizes a 911 dispatcher who has shown exemplary performance of duties as the “first, first responder” in medical emergencies.
About Ruth Lagerquist:
Lagerquist has been a 911 dispatcher for Sheridan County for over 30 years. She answered the first 911 call in Sheridan County and her coworkers joke that she will be there for the last one. Sheridan County 911 adopted Emergency Medical Dispatch approximately six years ago allowing dispatchers to provide emergency care instructions until help arrives.
In her nomination letter, Sheridan County 911 Director Sapphira Olson wrote regarding a recent difficult pediatric call: “Ruth was calm and compassionate during what was a very challenging call. However, she was able to assist the caller with CPR instructions. I truly admire Ruth for being so calm and collected.”
- EMS for Children Pediatric EMS Award, Victoria Good, Thompson Falls Ambulance. This award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated excellence in providing pediatric EMS care and /or education. The awardee serves as an outstanding role model for colleagues while consistently demonstrating commitment to high-quality, professional EMS care to the pediatric patient.
About Victoria Good:
Good has been an EMT for nine years. Victoria started as an Emergency Medical Responder in 2012 and then moved up to an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) the following year. She currently works with Thompson Falls Ambulance Service based out of Thompson Falls in Sanders County.
She currently serves as the Thompson Falls Ambulance Service Secretary and is working towards becoming the Pediatric Emergency Care Coordinator for Thompson Falls Ambulance.
Marc Bronner of Thompson Falls states: “I have observed many times during emergency calls her amazing ability to connect with children of all ages in a calming way. For any child to be involved in an emergency situation can be very stressful and emotional, but Victoria has a way of communicating to children and understanding their needs.”