SUMMIT, NJ - Overlook Medical Center honored 17 first responders at its 22nd annual Excellence in EMS Awards event, which was held in conjunction with 'National EMS Week, highlighting the important role of EMS first personnel in the communities they serve and the importance of local rescue squads..

John Tyrrell, DO, assistant medical director of the emergency department at Overlook’s Union campus, served as emcee for the event, and thanked the EMS members for their dedication.

Gary Belt, MD, stroke neurologist at Overlook’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, noted the role of these first responders in quickly assessing and transporting patients experiencing stroke.

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“I thank you all for making our jobs so much easier,” said Belt. “With your advance work and information, you give those of us at Overlook an opportunity to give stroke patients a better outcome once they are here.  We all respect the compassion and care you provide to every patient you touch.”

The event this year took place at the Grand Summit Hotel, less than a mile from the hospital. In addition to the awards, the event featured an overview by Jeffrey Leary, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Overlook, of initiatives at the hospital designed to improve the outcomes in orthopedic patients, many of whom, Leary noted, begin as injuries treated by first responders.

Cynthia Benson, DO, assistant medical director of the emergency department at Overlook, shared how a former colleague, a paramedic, helped her better appreciate the hard and sometimes dangerous role EMS first responders play in health care.

“There’s such power in what they do; in some cases, they’re risking their own lives to save the lives of others,” Benson said. “That people would volunteer for that role is just incredible to me. What an amazing gift to our society.”

In presenting the award to her colleague, Fahad Sheikh, Liz Fritzen, president of the Springfield Frist Aid Squad, shared admiration back toward Overlook, where neurosurgeons in 2010 treated her for a hemorrhaging aneurysm, and where she was treated just a few weeks ago for elevated blood pressure.

“Everybody here knows Overlook Medical Center is the absolute best,” Fritzen told her peers.

Seventeen EMS personnel were given the 'EMT Excellence Award' at the event for exceptional service. The awards were presented by colleagues, who described the winners’ accomplishments to the audience.

The award winners included:

  • Josie Roberts – Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad

  • Jamie Pedinoff – Fanwood Rescue Squad

  • Donna Cordell-Genlot – Garwood First Aid Squad

  • Jessica Delgado-Days – Kenilworth Fire Department and Resque Squad

  • Claire Butkerait – Long Hill First Aid Squad

  • Saverio Zipeto – Mountainside Rescue Squad

  • Sara Costa – New Providence EMS

  • Chang Yaramothu – Scotch Plains Rescue Squad

  • Fahad Sheikh – Springfield First Aid Squad

  • Gino Fiorenza – Clark Volunteer Emergency Squad

  • Daniel Gomez – Cranford First Aid Squad

  • Anthony Pagano – Elizabeth Fire Department

  • Mike Lemons – Chatham Emergency Squad

  • Margaret “Peggy” Dendinger – Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad

  • Angel Quiros – Watchung Rescue Squad

  • Kajal Gandhi – Union Emergency Medical Unit

  • Keith Peterson – Westfield Rescue Squad

Overlook also presented an 'EMS Council Recognition Award' to Marla O’Donnell, clinical coordinator at the Emergency Department at Overlook’s Union Campus, for her work collaborating with EMS personnel.

Additionally, Overlook also recognized two members of its emergency department staff at the event for their efforts in maintaining a supportive environment for visiting EMS workers – most specifically, cleaning the coveted slushee machine that provides free drinks to the first responders:

  • Leonard Pastore, supply tech coordinator for the emergency department

  • Marsh White, emergency department unit representative

Overlook also recognized its Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) with the 'Overlook EMS Council Award' for its years of service and dedication. Launched in September 1975 through a $8,500 gift from the Soroptimist Club in Summit, the MICU was Overlook’s initiative to battle the staggering statistic at that time, of more than 50 percent of heart attack victims dying before ever making it to the hospital.

Working with local EMS squads -- and equipped with the latest technology of the time -- this “mini-hospital on wheels,” made a great impact on improving outcomes. Now, as part of Atlantic Mobile Health, there are 10 MICU units that serve six counties with nearly 24,000 requests for service each year, and treating a wide range of conditions.

Three paramedics with the MICU in particular were recognized for their longevity with the program: Daniel MacMahon, Ron Jacobs and Harry Bigelow.