Q: How did you get into EMS?
KW: I started in 1992 with Brewster Ambulance Service as an EMT. I started my career there. I initially went to Northeastern University for Criminal Justice and while I was there, my older brother worked for Boston EMS as an EMT. He said, "Do you want to come ride along?" It was a Friday night, so I rode and I saw everything from cardiac arrest to shootings to stabbings. It was then that I realized that this was my calling and was what I wanted to do.
So after I went to EMT school and got my EMT and started with Brewster Ambulance in '92, I ended up working at Brewster with Mark [Brewster] as my partner, and I worked there as an EMT. I later went to paramedic school, obtained my paramedic and got on the City of Boston EMS and left Brewster Ambulance in '94. I worked at Boston EMS as a paramedic. My older brother has been an EMT for the City of Boston since 2001 and is still working there today. He'll be retiring in the next couple of years.
I then left Boston EMS to go work for a south shore fire department and started their paramedic system in 2001. I became a Lieutenant Paramedic EMS Coordinator there. I run CMTI and oversee education at Brewster. I later started CMTI in 2009.
I felt that there was a need for paramedic programs that expanded on skills. In my opinion, new paramedics weren't getting some of the education they needed and it was subpar as far as pharmacology and cardiology. Since CMTI started, we've conducted 26 EMT classes and have just started our thirteenth paramedic program as of today.
Q: What was entailed in getting certified to become an EMS trainer and start CMTI?
KW: There are many credentials I needed to obtain to teach EMS programs, some of which include ACLS, PALS, THTLS, and I also obtained my state paramedic examiner license. I have all of my instructor credentials to teach EMT and paramedic. In regards to starting CMTI, I had to purchase equipment, get business loans and apply for a tax ID as a company. As with any new small business, it was a struggle, but I managed to put it together with the help of a great staff, and many are still with me today who have assisted me over the years.
Q: How did you get your first students?
KW: Word of mouth is really how I got students initially, and also from my website. My first paramedic class had 10 paramedic students in it. My first EMT class had 15 students. Then from there, we also conducted CPR training for businesses, pediatric life support, training for fire departments. CMTI still does that.
Q: How did CMTI being purchased by Brewster in 2016 come about?
KW: Through the years since I worked at Brewster initially, Mark and I always kept in touch. He approached me in early 2016, and we had a discussion about him acquiring CMTI and it happened in April. Since then, we continue to do well. I oversee CMTI, and Mark asked me to take on an expanded role with the Brewster side. I'm the Director of Education at Brewster Ambulance as well now.
Q: How is all of it working for you, with CMTI and Brewster Ambulance training?
KW: I oversee education for the Brewster side and run CMTI. I oversee operations to make sure the EMT and paramedic programs are operating and flowing correctly. I oversee two great teams; and also have an education manager Jolene Sheehan on the Brewster side. Gary Smith is my Director of Operations on the CMTI side, so it's like a pyramid where I oversee both sides, but I have these two great teams that do a great job running things. The CMTI side focuses on continuing education, hospitals, fire departments and the Brewster side is providing continuing education for our team, the six municipalities we serve and nursing facilities.
Q: In your opinion, what do you feel makes Brewster Ambulance successful?
KW: Their passion about the EMS industry in general. They are passionate about providing the highest patient care to their customers. That hasn't changed since I was there in the 90s. That value holds true today. They genuinely care about their team, and their team's families as well. Family comes first with the Brewsters. They are very flexible, the Brewsters, and they make sure their management and supervisors are flexible when it comes to family and personal issues. They want a family atmosphere throughout the company. They want that feel, and that hasn't changed at all.
They are all passionate about the services they provide, their team and providing the highest quality patient care and service. Day in and day out. They are very loyal to their team. They remember their names, ask them about their experience with Brewster Ambulance and how they can make things better. They are constantly striving to be the best, and that's why they are the best in the industry.
They go out of their way to have parties, events and outings for the team and their families. It improves morale and sends home that message about family and shows the team that they do care. They also like to see their team outside of the work environment. They like to get to know the team's families and really enjoy making everyone feel like they are part of a big family of people who really care.
Q: How has Brewster ambulance service changed since you were there in the 90s?
KW: Today we're a lot bigger. We have over 1,000 on the team now, the amount of trucks is close to 200 or more. There are more people on the team, more trucks—we are approaching 300,000 calls a year, and all of the clinical equipment and technology in the vehicles that we use to save lives has changed significantly.
Brewster Ambulance has adapted well to that change, and Chris Dibona works well on the clinical side. He works closely with me on the education side so that the team knows how to work the equipment, which makes Brewster Ambulance such a leader. Brewster deploys the highest quality equipment for our patients, and the best training to make sure we are applying the right clinical approaches and care for our patients and the team.