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Douglas A. Garretson

Doug Garretson, BA, NRP
Immediate Past Chair – Former Region 5 Director


The Center for Emergency Medicine of Western PA, Inc., STAT MedEvac

Doug’s history in the EMS field include:

  • 1972-1975 EMS/Fire – Volunteer Sector
  • 1975-2004 City of Pittsburgh, Department of Public Safety, Bureau of EMS
    • Paramedic
    • Crew Chief
    • Supervisor – Training Division
    • Director – Public Safety Training Academy (EMS, Fire and Police)
    • Assistant Chief – Ambulance Division
    • Deputy Chief – EMS
    • Chief – EMS
  • 2004-Present The Center for Emergency Medicine of Western PA, Inc. (CEM)
    • Senior Director of Operations – STAT MedEvac
    • Vice President – CEM
    • President & CEO – CEM

Q: Tell us about your job and what you love most about it.

A: The Center for Emergency Medicine (CEM), formerly a consortium of 8 member hospitals, now wholly governed by the UPMC Health System, was founded by Dr. Ron Stewart in 1978 with the vision of improving the delivery of emergency medical services locally, regionally and internationally through education and research. CEM’s Office of Education is internationally known as one of the foremost EMS education centers. CEM’s Center for Research in EMS, in synergy with UPMC’s Department of Emergency Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences is one of the most prolific publishers of prehospital research in the world. CEM’s CONNECT program (now part of the UPMC Health Plan) is the longest running Community Paramedic program in the U.S. CEM’s STAT MedEvac critical care transport program is the second largest non-profit air medical provider in the U.S. Four of CEM’s leadership have been recognized by Jems/Physio-Control as Top Ten Innovators in EMS!

I love the people I work with and the service our medical providers, pilots, AMTs, communication specialists educators, researchers and administrative support staff provide. We impact people’s lives everyday in a positive manner whether saving a life, teaching tomorrow’s providers or managing their insurance reimbursement.

Q: What / Who inspired you to follow an air medical / critical care transport career path and how did you break into it?

A: I started in EMS my senior year of high school.  While attending Duke University, I arranged an ‘internship’ with the Durham Fire Department. When the City of Pittsburgh started an EMS program, I was one of the first 40 paramedics employed.  Along the way, marrying my partner and raising four children, I learned to fly – a lifelong passion.  When an opportunity arose with a company that combined EMS and aviation, I was encouraged by my former medical director to consider the position.  I resigned as Chief of Pittsburgh EMS to assume a subordinate role at STAT MedEvac, was mentored by some of the best in the industry and eventually was asked to lead the Center for Emergency Medicine.

Q: What is your proudest career-defining moment that best represents your overall professional expertise and experience?

A: I was honored to have been asked on two occasions to present at the National EMS Memorial Service – once providing Opening Remarks and then as Keynote Speaker.  Together, they remain the single most honorable and humbling experiences of my 48+ years in EMS.

Q: What inspired you to join the AAMS Board?

A: AAMS is the representative of the critical care transport industry. I first became engaged with committees at their meetings held in conjunction with the Air Medical Transport Conference – Government Relations, Non-Profit Special Interest Group (SIG) and the Fixed Wing SIG, in particular. Learning more about the industry, what my colleagues were doing and contributing, and seeing the impact of AAMS led me to eventually seek leadership within the committees and eventually the AAMS Board. I was not initially successful in my bids for election to the Board. Wanting to contribute and make a difference carried me forward to repeatedly try.

Q: What are your top three impact goals you plan to achieve as a board member?

A: 1 – Ensure the industry is well represented in all facets of our work, particularly with the legislature – both at the Federal and State level. Working towards fair reimbursement and avoiding potentially harmful regulations are at the forefront. Both of these start with knowing your membership and their needs, and gaining and maintaining recognition for the industry.

2 – Providing timely information and quality education for the membership.

3 – Reducing the void between factions of the industry that developed over the past several years with the ultimate goal of reconciling differences and unifying our voices.

Q: What do you see as the future of our industry and what is the best way to adapt to a changing landscape; and given that, what are the role do you see AAMS play in that change?

A: Since the day of the Good Samaritan in biblical times, there has been a need for humanity to help one another – for special individuals to answer the call of their colleagues in times of medical crisis. I don’t see that going away.  The industry has proven agile to the challenges presented – improving safety, expanding care offerings, adapting transport mechanisms based on region, demand and specific patient needs. I see the industry continuing to grow and adapt as the capabilities of our staff and equipment present more options for declining community health care resources and expanding centers of medical excellence in urban hubs. AAMS provides a key role ensuring lawmakers, community developers and the citizenry remain cognizant of the critical link our members provide in their chain of survival. In turn, these efforts help lead the way or fortify the procurement of financial support for existence and growth.

Q: What’s your favorite book / movie / movie quote and why?

A: The Movie ‘Dave’ – “”You don’t really know how much you can do until you stand up and decide to try.” – Dave Kovic. It is simple and I think speaks for itself, but for me, it references responsibility, determination and recognition of one’s own weaknesses, strengths and ultimately, value.