CSM Instructor, Student Receive Star of Life Awards

Rescue during Anniversary March Earned Nomination, Recognition from Peers

Paramedic John Gosford, a College of Southern Maryland professor and Emergency Medical Services program coordinator, and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Dallas Arenas, a student in the paramedic training program, have been honored with American Ambulance Association’s Star of Life awards for their outstanding commitment and dedication in the line of service.

The awards presented this spring recognized their actions in saving the life of a person attending the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington on August 24, 2013 on the National Mall. By performing lifesaving procedures to a patient in cardiac arrest at the scene and during transport to the hospital, the patient survived and was able to go home after a few days.

A paramedic with more than 25 years of experience, Gosford, works part time for American Medical Response (AMR) to maintain skills and certifications. Gosford served in a variety of field and non-field EMS roles including paramedic, dispatching, education and regulatory services before joining the faculty at CSM.

Arenas became an EMT in 2009 after losing a close family member in a car crash. She worked for AMR Massachusetts in 2010 gaining experience in inter-facility transfer and 9-1-1 emergency calls. She transferred to the Washington, D.C. Metro region in 2012 and earned her National Registry EMT certification. In addition to her work for AMR and studies in CSM’s EMS program, Arenas works in a dual position at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital as the hyperbaric safety director and hyperbaric chamber technologist.

Every workday at AMR begins with a pre-shift vehicle and equipment inspection and an assignment from dispatch. Last August, Gosford and Arenas were assigned as a crew for one of their scheduled shifts and received instructions to work as a back-up for the 50th Anniversary March on Washington. Crowds were expected in the thousands. On location they watched as people swelled onto the Mall encircling their rescue vehicle. When they got the ‘lights and siren’ call from dispatch their first concern was getting the truck through the crowd to the scene where police and other EMS personnel were assisting the patient while waiting on the transport unit. What happened next, and over the next few hours, was the direct result of the right people, with the right training, being in the right place at the right time to save a life.

This was not Gosford’s first ‘save,’ he has earned other CPR Save Achievement awards, and he did not anticipate the national recognition that he and Arenas received.

“[The call and rescue] was like any other—except for the circumstances,” said Gosford. “Police motorcycles formed a ‘V’, cutting a path through the crowd which allowed us to get the patient to the hospital as quickly as possible.”

EMS professionals do not often find out what happens to patients after they are dropped off at the hospital, but in this case Gosford was informed that the patient survived. AMR workers who assisted in the rescue felt that Gosford’s and Arenas’ actions that day were the reason that the patient’s outcome was positive and nominated the pair for the Star of Life Award through their company.

Each year, EMS providers working for thousands of public and private rescue squads nationwide nominate peers for the Star of Life. For this past year, there were 82 recipients of the award out of more than 200,000 EMS providers nationwide, with Gosford and Arenas as the only recipients from the D.C. Metro area.

Gosford has a bachelor’s degree in information studies from Florida State University and a master’s degree in public safety leadership from Capella University. He is completing a Ph.D. program in emergency management at Capella. He became interested in emergency medical training while in a pre-med program at the University of South Florida in the 1980s. Between semesters he attended Hillsborough Community College’s EMT program and followed up with paramedic training. He worked full-time as an emergency room paramedic at Tampa General Hospital and trained with the flight crews for the hospital’s medevac helicopter program, while working as a dispatcher.

For information on CSM’s EMS program, visit http://www.csmd.edu/hea/ems/.