Remembering paramedic educator, fitness advocate, Bryan Fass

EMS1 contributors acknowledge Bryan’s legacy and encourage all in EMS to continue his mission to improve wellness

By EMS1 staff

We were deeply saddened to learn long-time EMS1 columnist and contributor, Bryan Fass, unexpectedly passed away on Sept. 16, 2019. Bryan was a passionate advocate for fitness, wellness and readiness for emergency responders. In a tribute to Bryan, Editor-in-Chief Greg Friese writes, “Bryan always challenged us to be our best selves. He wanted us to be fit, ready, focused and attuned to our bodies.”

We asked EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board members, columnists and contributors to share their tributes to Bryan. Here’s what they had to say about his legacy.

A consummate EMS professional

What a punch to the stomach the news of losing a friend can be. It seems that more and more the people we worked with, called friends and loved are passing away. Yesterday brought another painful reminder that life is short and tomorrow is never guaranteed. I am in shock at the loss of Bryan Fass. To call him a peer is an honor, to call him a friend is with love.

Bryan was one of those people that wanted to make a difference in his life and career. As an EMS provider, he demonstrated the characteristics that led him to being a consummate EMS professional. Seeing a bigger picture, his decision was to treat more than just patients. He saw a need and seized the opportunity to develop the needed skills, knowledge and experience to make the EMS career field healthier and more physically fit. As he traveled around the country building his vision, one EMS system at a time, he began developing the powerful legacy he would be known for. 

I once shared a car with Bryan for a couple of hours, and we discussed my opinion that we are writing our autobiography every day. I asked him what he wanted to be known for. He looked through the windshield and said, for being a great father, a loving husband and being able to make a difference for everyone he encountered. Well, he did that, and more.

Also, on that trip, he made me promise to try quinoa. Fulfilling my promise, I gave it a go, and thought it was like eating grass. When I called to share, he laughed as I provided my less-than-delicious review of choking down my serving. In his way, he told me to be open-minded and give it another go. I did, and now eat it regularly, thinking about how he was the influence every time.

Billy Joel sang, "only the good die young," and in this case, it is very true. Cheers to you Bryan, and rest in peace brother.

— Chris Cebollero, President/CEO, Cebollero & Associates

Saying goodbye to a fitness icon

I’m stunned and at a loss for words. I learned that my good friend and colleague, Bryan Fass, passed away suddenly. This loss is particularly painful. Maybe it’s because Bryan was 46. I’m 46. Maybe it’s because Bryan was a picture of health. I’m a … well, I aspire to be healthier.

We are all terminal. Tragedies happen. I get that. However, this makes zero sense to me. And it seems cruel that the iconic leader of EMS fitness and health was whisked away from us at such a young age.

I hired Bryan as a contributing author during the early days of EMS1. Well, let me clarify. Bryan relentlessly pitched me his fitness vision for EMS, and, in his unflappable — yet endearing — way, his contagious passion became a reality. Bryan became a regular columnist.

Now, more than a decade (and many articles, workshops, and videos) later, Bryan’s legacy has changed the landscape of EMS forever. Because of him, we focus on posture. We stretch in-between calls. We eat better. One presentation at a time, one article at a time, Bryan positively influenced our EMS community.

And yet, my conversations were not always easy. “I’m enjoying Crossfit,” would be met with, “Overtraining is not a good thing.” Or, “I love yoga,” would be met with, “Not all yoga is good for you.” Bryan held strong opinions and yet, there was something endearing about his abrasiveness. His words were concise and filled with objective data. He got me to stop and listen, to consider thoughtfully, to be more present in my health decisions instead of following the latest fad. In short, he challenged me ... for the better. 

How can I honor Bryan’s life? 

I can continue listening to what Bryan had to say. Re-read his articles. Buy his book. Watch his videos. And then, put his advice into action. Grab vegetables instead of fast food. Stretch. Lift properly. Treat my body as if it’s the only one I’ve got … because it is.

But most importantly, I can live my life with the same dedication and commitment to making this world a better place. I’m better because of Bryan. And, I owe it to him to pay it forward.

— Kris Kaull, chief marketing officer for Pulsara, EMS1 co-founder, flight paramedic

An advocate for physical and mental wellness

Bryan was a passionate advocate for both physical and mental wellness in the workplace. I have met few people who were so dedicated to their mission as Bryan. His impact on the profession is immeasurable, and his loss will be felt by many.

— Ann Marie Farina, executive director, The Code Green Campaign

A deep and lasting impact

We are all deeply saddened by the sudden passing of our friend Bryan Fass. Bryan was one of the most passionate advocates for EMS responder health, safety and wellness we ever knew – and he did something about it through his many engaging educational programs and seminars across the country.

Bryan was an all-around wonderful human being – humble and always there to help – yet never needing to be in the spotlight. You always walked away with a positive feeling after any interaction with Bryan. His quiet confidence and positive words of encouragement had a deep and lasting impact on each person he touched.

In recent years, we would chat about how to improve responder resilience and the latest research – it was his mission. He truly cared about others. He did so much good for so many, his death leaves a big void that will be hard to fill. But Bryan’s work must continue and we must all step up and move it forward. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bryan’s family. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten. RIP.

— Stephen R. Wirth, Esq., Page, Wolfberg & Wirth LLC

Practical solutions for fitness and nutrition

I am so sad to hear about Bryan's death and send my condolences to his family. I show his "Check your truck, check your body" video at the beginning of each of my paramedic classes, and we do those stretches before we practice moving patients.

He created practical solutions for on-duty fitness and nutrition in a way that had never been done before, and thanks to him, the EMS community will continue to benefit from his passion about safety and wellness.

— Bob Sullivan, MS, NRP, paramedic instructor

Our organization is better today because of him

Austin-Travis County EMS mourns the loss of Bryan Fass. We sincerely offer our condolences to his family and friends. Bryan was an amazing leader and brought a great deal of very valuable information to our industry. His passion for safety, fitness and health was easily evident in everything that he did.

When our agency set out to improve our fitness program a few years ago, we contacted Bryan to talk about his ideas. The synergy started immediately and he helped us set up training for our staff, reviewed our policies, provided educational materials, and we hit the ground running. A few weeks ago, I talked to him about what the next steps for us might look like.

Bryan set us on the right course. We still use the materials he provided and we have his educational posters displayed throughout our agency. We distributed foam rollers, resistance bands, and workout mats to all of our locations. He showed me how to work through muscle tension and relieve stress using a tennis ball, and I keep one on my nightstand.

What I will miss about Bryan is his openness, honesty, eagerness and friendship. He was easy to talk to and easy to be friends with, even if most of our time together was spent at the various conferences we’d both attend. He really cared about his mission and the people he helped. Our organization is better today because of Bryan. We will miss him, and his legacy will live on in the difference he made for so many.

— Ernesto M. Rodriguez, chief, Austin-Travis County EMS

Continue his mission

It is rare to meet someone with the dedication and drive to truly make inroads in changing the safety culture within a profession. Bryan Fass did just that through his commitment to ensuring EMS prioritized the safety of both practitioners and patients. While his written words resonated with readers, his true impact was in the classroom, where he made converts to fitness wherever he taught. Traveling around the country to both national and state EMS conferences, as well as regional training events, Bryan worked tirelessly to stop career-ending injuries so that EMTs and paramedics could live long and healthy lives. Taken far too soon from us, we must honor his memory by continuing his mission.

— Nancy Perry, editor-in-chief, Police1

EMS providers honor Bryan Fass

Bryan’s knowledge and passion will live on in the articles, videos and podcasts he contributed to EMS and fire industry publications. Read some of Bryan’s contributions to EMS1 here: 

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