Our final award this evening is presented to a human being who has dedicated their life to this business we call EMS.
Our recipient was a life-long EMS clinician, educator and staunch patient advocate. He began his career in the 1980s (before I was born) as an advanced first aid provider and volunteer.
His career spanned decades. Serving in various roles such as Paramedic, Nurse, educator, program director for ECC EMS Education and Board Chairman at Meramec Ambulance District. He taught thousands of EMT’s, Paramedics, Nurses, Mid Levels and Physicians over the years.
So the cat’s out of the bag now. We’re talking about Tom Fitts. Tom lost his battle with cancer in November of 2021. And I’m sorry Janet, but I may have fibbed a bit to get you here.
So that folks understand the type of person Tom was, I’m going to tell a little story. I’m drawn back to the conversation of how he wanted to help students to understand what it felt like to truly be hypoxic or “air hungry.” I remember him telling me he felt it for the first time recently and he had to figure out how to get “the kids” to understand how it feels to be in the shoes of the patient. It reminded me of why I bonded with Tom Fitts many moons ago. Us EMS folks are a bit odd. But you have to remember what we do, and then you can remember why EMS educators are even more odd than EMS clinicians. We are invited into people’s homes on what is potentially the worst day of their life. We are handed a lifeless child from a mother as she begs you to save them. We are there when life is brought into this world. We are there when life leaves this world. This is something that is extremely sacred. That honor and trust are often times the most difficult thing to teach a student. You can teach just about anyone to memorize an algorithm or to start an IV. But the real gifted educators instill values in their students. They give a bit of their soul to their students in hopes that it will carry on to said students’ patients. Tom was one of those. He helped his students to learn empathy. He taught his students to walk a mile in the patients’ shoes. He gave a little piece of his soul to each and every student he taught. And he could roll his eyes and make a sarcastic comment better than just about anyone.
Tom made the world a better place. Tom saved lives and eased suffering. Both directly and indirectly through the countless clinicians you helped to build (and take out at the knees every once in a while).
For this, we are eternally grateful. It brings great pleasure to present the Fitts family with a Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of Tom Fitts and his life dedicated to the care of the ill and injured.