Acting Chief Amera Gilchrist poised to become first Black woman to lead Pittsburgh EMS
She said the bureau will undergo "restructuring to meet the modern-day needs of EMS and the needs of a new generation of EMS providers"
By Megan Guza
PITTSBURGH — Amera Gilchrist is poised to become the first Black woman to lead Pittsburgh EMS after Mayor Ed Gainey nominated her Thursday for the position left by outgoing chief Ron Romano.
Chief Gilchrist was named acting chief earlier this month when Romano announced his retirement after decades with the emergency medical services bureau.
"My plan is to never stop growing," Chief Gilchrist said, calling it an honor to be nominated to the full time position. City Council must approve the appointment.
She said the bureau will undergo "restructuring to meet the modern-day needs of EMS and the needs of a new generation of EMS providers."
She declined to get into specifics on those changes, noting only that some decisions might not be popular, "but the right decisions usually never are."
"The bureau has always run seamlessly, but there are some things that need to be tweaked to make it run faster," she said. "I don't want to delve too deep into what that restructuring plan looks like, but it's going to happen and it's going to run seamlessly."
Chief Gilchrist pointed to the EMS bureau's history — it was born out of the city's Freedom House Ambulance Service, which was formed in 1967 and was the first emergency medical service in the country to be staffed by trained paramedics, most of whom were Black.
"I hope today all Freedom House members — the ones that are still with us and the ones that have gone — are rejoicing," she said.
Mr. Romano's last day in uniform was March 31, and his retirement is official next month.
"He made sure that upon his retirement, he left a legacy behind," Mr. Gainey said of Mr. Romano. "I think he chose the right person, and I think he trained and he prepared the right person to take this position."
Mr. Gainey announced his nomination of Chief Gilchrist outside the City-County Building. Dozens of friends, family members and colleagues gathered for the occasion.
"I think that's because of the respect and trust and admiration they have for her," Mr. Gainey said. He, too, called it an honor to nominate her for the EMS chief position.
Chief Gilchrist grew up on the city's North Side and attended Pittsburgh Public Schools before going on to Robert Morris University. She's currently continuing her education at Point Park University.
"This bureau has always been on the cutting edge of pre-hospital care, but we can all do better," she said. "Once my term as chief has ended, I will leave this bureau better than it is now. That should always be the goal of a great leader."
How Pittsburgh’s ‘Freedom House’ shaped modern EMS systems
During a time of racial tension and social upheaval, the movement helped form the foundations of the pre-hospital care we’re used to today
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