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From Mantooth to flank steak: My EMS Today highlights

This year's show in Baltimore saw a number of highlights

Even after you leave EMS, it never really leaves you.

I've made that observation before, and never was it more apparent than during Randy Mantooth's opening keynote speech at EMS Today 2012 Thursday morning.

As the saying goes, Randy never was a paramedic, but he played one on television, and the experience he gained doing ridealongs to research the role of a firefighter/paramedic stayed with him for a lifetime.

Despite a long and successful career in Hollywood, to a generation of television viewers Randy will forever be remembered as Johnny Gage, the role he played for six seasons in the 1970's on Emergency!

Many actors would resent being so closely identified with a single role, fearful of being typecast, limited to playing variations of the same character for the rest of their careers.

Apparently, Randolph Mantooth doesn't worry about such things, and that is testament to the immense respect he has for the men and women of EMS.

He related the powerful tale of his sister's near-fatal car accident and her successful resuscitation by paramedics, and spoke with bemused wonder of the quantum leaps in technology that have occurred since the days of Johnny and Roy, while reminding us of the one thing that has remained constant about EMS providers since the infancy of our profession: the giving spirit of EMTs.

I was touched to see that a man who had inspired a generation of providers to become EMTs found so much inspiration from us in return.

Top innovator
EMS1 columnist and blogger Tom Bouthillet was honored with an EMS10 Award for being one of the top innovators in EMS. The EMS10: Innovators in EMS awards, co-sponsored by JEMS and Physio Control, are now in their fourth year of honoring providers and educators who have substantially contributed to advances in EMS.

Past recipients include Dr. Paul Pepe, Dr. Ray Fowler, Chris Montera, and fellow EMS1 columnist Greg Friese.

STEMI premiere
EMS Today attendees also got to see the premiere of Code STEMI, a collaboration between Tom Bouthillet and Ted Setla, paramedic and producer of Beyond the Lights and Sirens, and the man behind the First Responders Network.

The series, sponsored by Physio Control, highlights the evolution of prehospital STEMI care across the United States, and the premiere episode took viewers to rural Sioux Falls, S.D., to witness the impressive teamwork between EMS and Emergency Department that has resulted in some truly impressive door-to-balloon times.

Future episodes promise to provide insight into how different EMS systems in the country provide STEMI care. Attendees of the series premiere were also given free gift cards for the 12 Lead ECG Challenge smartphone app, conceived by Tom and developed by Dan Limmer…

… who, I am sad to say, is a better textbook author and developer of mobile EMS apps than he is a chef. Dan participated in the EMS Today Cook-Off, in which teams were required to create their own unique dishes using flank steak, red onions, white button mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and mayonnaise as ingredients.

No word yet on what exactly kept the Limmer team from winning, but I'm blaming it on Dan's meat tenderizing technique, which strongly resembled CPR compressions.

Helpful hint: allow full recoil on that flank stank, Dan. Good compressions make all the difference in the world.

While Dan's team may not have been the winning one, his entry certainly smelled delicious from 30 feet away as I struggled (in vain) to hold the attention of a couple dozen attendees of my "Lunch and Learn" session on sepsis.

I discovered how difficult it is for discussion of cytokines and inflammatory response to compete with the tantalizing aroma of sizzling beef and sautéed mushrooms.

Heck, it smelled so good even I almost wandered over there, and I was the one responsible for giving the presentation!

The role of social media
As usual, social media made its presence known at EMS Today, and a number of podcasts and blogs discussed current EMS issues and show events. EMS bloggers and social media gurus such as Coma Toast, Medic 22, Dave Konig and Greg Friese were spotted in the crowd, and the Promed Network was busy covering the show from their podcast studio at the Marriot Inner Harbor.

I was honored to participate in an episode of EMS Garage with host Chris Montera, Tim Noonan, and Sam Bradley, in which we solved all the problems in EMS in just over an hour.

Okay, maybe not all the problems in EMS, but we did manage to put some serious wounds in the spinal immobilization dragon, and if we'd have had a couple more hours, I'm quite sure we could have put an end to low salaries, snotty triage nurses, system status management, and gotten every EMT in the country their very own Slurpee machine.

 I must make a note to tell Montera that in time for EMS World Expo in October.

Aside from the stellar-as-usual exhibit hall and the exciting new products (which I'm sure Dan White will cover in more detail than I can), I was intrigued by EMS Today's version of the EMS flash mob.

At different times and places in the exhibit hall, impromptu "pop-up sessions" were held, in which EMS educators and industry leaders such as EMS attorney Alison Bloom held short, informal discussions with attendees on various topics.

I saw a number of show staffers in their distinctive red polo shirts, holding up signs announcing the sessions while surrounded by small clusters of interested and engaged attendees. It seemed an interesting concept, and I'm eager to learn how it was received by conference attendees.

And the Games...
Of course, no recap of EMS Today would be complete without a mention of the 2012 JEMS Games. Fourteen teams competed this year, with New Britain (Conn.) EMS, Cumberland County (N.C.) EMS and Virtua Health (N.J.) making it to the finals.

Top honors this year went to Cumberland County (N.C.) EMS, for their mastery of a challenging MCI scenario in a tornado shelter. Good job, Cumberland County!

If you're new to EMS and eager to learn how things are done in other systems, or you're an EMS dinosaur in need of a recharge of your career satisfaction battery, I'd urge you to consider attending one of the larger state or national conferences like EMS Today.

It's an excellent way to keep abreast of current trends, network, or just share some fellowship with people who share your passion for EMS.

I'll see you next year in Washington, DC, if not before!

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