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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

EMS industry leader Mike Smith dies at 61

The much-loved EMS speaker and educator died of a heart attack

By Arthur Hsieh

The EMS community lost one of its contemporaries on Sunday, Oct. 13 when industry leader Mike Smith, chair of the Tacoma Community College EMS program and a well-known EMS speaker, died of a heart attack in his home.

Sources say Mike was transported by EMS from his home to a local hospital where he succumbed to a myocardial infarction. He was 61 years old.

Mike was a prolific writer and presenter. His leadership in EMS education was well known and he served as a role model to many new EMS professionals and instructors. He wrote articles for JEMS and EMS magazines, lectured at EMS conferences through the USA and Canada, and wrote for textbooks.

He was renowned as a ‘giant’ in the community for both his physical size and his larger-than-life personality.

From a tribute we published by his good friend John Sinclair, Mike began his career as a firefighter in Harvey, Ill., and become one of the first paramedics in the early 1970’s. From the south side of Chicago, he moved to Iowa to teach, and then settled in Washington to take over Tacoma Community College’s paramedic program.

He is survived by his wife Sylvia and two grown children, as well as a new granddaughter. 

Funeral information

Mike’s memorial service is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. at the University Place Presbyterian Church, in University Place, Wash.

Mike’s family has asked for help collecting photos of Mike for a slide show they are preparing for the service. A longer slide show will run post-service. They can use whatever you have, but Sylvia says she’d particularly like anything lighthearted. Please send photos to:

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Mike Smith Paramedic Scholarship Fund, at Tapco Credit Union, 6312 – 19th Street W., Tacoma, WA  98466.

For those traveling from out of town, hotel recommendations include: 

  • Courtyard Marriott in downtown Tacoma ($149/night posted rate)
  • Holiday Inn Express on Hosmer St. in Tacoma ($101/night)

Local fire department personnel are providing transportation to and from the airport and the service. If you need a ride, call Russ McCallion or Carla Vigna at East Pierce Fire and Rescue, 253-863-1800.

Don’t forget to share memories and stories about Mike on

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
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Joe Malloy Joe Malloy Tuesday, October 15, 2013 11:48:12 AM I first met Mike Smith with his Protoge' Bill Cochran in 1980, I attended the first advanced care class presented by both through the Mercy School of EMS in Des Moines, Iowa. I am proud to say that I learned to become a "Street Medic" because of what he lived and breathed, EMS. I have kept up with him and his family as I traveled accross the continent with Ferno Washingtion. He will be missed...
Beth Malloy Beth Malloy Tuesday, October 15, 2013 1:55:38 PM prayers to friends and family, man was he too young, so sorry
Steve Rowland Steve Rowland Tuesday, October 15, 2013 2:23:28 PM What a loss for the EMS community. I never met Mike but I read a lot of his articles and he was the person to bring a level of common sense to EMS when it was sorely needed. RIP Mike.
Michael Sanderson Michael Sanderson Tuesday, October 15, 2013 5:48:46 PM Very sad, an extremely capable and likeable man has been lost to us. All of us who met him were better for the experience. RIP
Marvin Wayne Marvin Wayne Tuesday, October 15, 2013 6:23:45 PM There are many you know but few you really know. I really knew Mike and the loss to The EMS community and to me cannot be measured.
Jon Puryear Jon Puryear Tuesday, October 15, 2013 6:30:03 PM Mike Smith was a wonderful man and a great EMS Educator. He has been a great inspiration to me and I always learned from him. My favorite presentation he performed recently was at our CareFlite ECU Conference in Arlington Texas this past May. He will be missed!
Emelie Jeffers Emelie Jeffers Tuesday, October 15, 2013 6:49:57 PM Sorry Marv. It sounds like he was someone who loved what he did, sort of like you.
Launa Nielson Launa Nielson Tuesday, October 15, 2013 6:53:35 PM I took classes from Mike for almost thirty years-what a blow to the EMS community and people everywhere. He talked about how he wanted to retire and just spend time with his family-so sad to hear of his passing!
Roger Ramirez Roger Ramirez Tuesday, October 15, 2013 7:13:31 PM May Mike Rest in Peace, God bless his family though their grieving moment.
Paul Hansen Paul Hansen Tuesday, October 15, 2013 8:05:03 PM Way too young,RIP
Paul LeRoy Paul LeRoy Wednesday, October 16, 2013 10:40:54 AM Paul LeRoy I first got my National Registry as a Paramedic in 1993, I worked for a while, then let certifications laps. I decided to re-certify and get my registry back. I asked Mike for help, and he was all to willing. Mike wrote letters on my behalf, got me enrolled in the refresher classes I needed and said this to me when I said I used to be a medic............... he looked me squarely in the eyes (from his height) and said..... "you listen to me...... you are not a was" Once a medic......... always a medic. I wear that title to this day proudly, and proud that 10 years, almost to the month, I re-certified as a Nationally Registered Paramedic! Thank you Mike. Oh, and by the way, when I sat for my test, which Mike was there; gave me a hug and said " WHEN YOU PASS AND YOU WILL", you will be only one of two to have accomplished this that I know of. the other was also a student of Mike's. Thank you again my friend. 15 minutes ago
David Kerr David Kerr Wednesday, October 16, 2013 7:55:16 PM What a great teacher and motivator for all of us adrenalin junkies! Rest in peace.
Tom Wolfe Tom Wolfe Thursday, October 17, 2013 7:23:51 AM That sucks, Mike was a great guy, really knew his stuff and how to teach what he knew.
Diane Ladislas Furlong Diane Ladislas Furlong Sunday, October 20, 2013 12:34:53 AM R.I.P. ...-- Deepest sympathy to all family and friends, Mike will be missed. From some your Harvey, Illinois friends-- Rich and Diane Furlong
Linda Simeone Linda Simeone Tuesday, October 22, 2013 11:21:00 AM A real loss, heartbreaking news. So sorry to hear of his passing.
Dave C Wilson Dave C Wilson Monday, June 02, 2014 9:16:29 PM What an incredible loss. Mike worked in cedar Rapids at one point and people still talk about him to this day. Too young. Sympathy to his family and friends. What a loss to ems and to those who knew him...

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