BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad Deputy Chief Sergio Guzman was recently honored as one of 14 first responders to receive the Overlook Medical Center “Excellence in EMS Award.”

As the nation marked National EMS Week, Overlook Medical Center, part of Atlantic Health System, celebrated the important role of EMS first responders in the communities they serve, and highlighted the extraordinary accomplishments of members of several local squads in the region at the 21st annual “Excellence in EMS Awards” dinner.

“The members of the Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad are proud to have Sergio as one of their leaders,” Assistant Treasurer and fellow volunteer EMT David Sloan said. “The recognition for his outstanding service by Overlook Medical Center couldn't be more deserved.  Sergio exemplifies all the things a competent and caring EMT should be, but he also goes above and beyond the call of a volunteer EMT by assisting other crew with squad responsibilities, recognizing and prioritizing safety measures before an accident can occur and covering fellow members when they cannot be present for their shift. 

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“For Sergio, emergency medical services is a true calling,” he continued. “In addition to Sergio's exemplary service as deputy chief and volunteer EMT for the Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad, he has worked as an EMT in the town of Plainfield and is now a patient care technician at Overlook Hospital. I believe I can speak for the members of the Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad when I say that Sergio is the ideal partner to have on any emergency call and many of us strive to live up to his example.”

Overlook president Alan Lieber spoke to the audience of EMS providers and their families who attended the awards dinner.

“For many of our patients, the care process begins with you,” Lieber said. “Your dedication is the first line of care, and tonight we want to show our appreciation for the important part you play in our work of building healthier communities.”

John Hanna, M.D., a stroke neurologist at Overlook’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, noted that the collaboration between local EMS squads and Overlook health care providers, combined with advances in care, have improved outcomes for patients at the hospital.

“The knowledge of our EMS providers is critical when it comes to treatment of stroke,” Hanna said. “Their understanding of everything, from stroke signs and symptoms, to patient history, to the criteria for TPA clot-busting medication – all before the patient reaches the emergency department – greatly aides rapid communication with stroke neurologists that advances treatment in crucial minutes. This allows for a safe and effective treatment plan and really helps improve the chances of a good outcome.”

Hanna highlighted Overlook’s recent achievement of a 12-minute door-to-needle-time (the time it takes for a patient to receive clot-busting medication from when he or she enters the emergency department) to treat a stroke patient earlier in the month, topping its previous best of 13 minutes in 2015 – already well below the national door-to-needle guideline from the American Stroke Association of less than an hour.

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

In addition to  Guzman, the award winners included: Jim Cline – Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad; Richard Crater – Chatham Emergency Squad; Bill Weslosky – Clark Volunteer Rescue Squad; Brian Siwek – Cranford First Aid Squad; Karolyn Buckridee – Fanwood Rescue Squad; Mikaela Teixeira – Long Hill First Aid Squad; Julius Korn – Mountainside Rescue Squad; Teresa Nell – New Providence Rescue Squad; Susan Baldani – Scotch Plains Rescue Squad; Marla Napurano – Springfield First Aid Squad; John Staunton – Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad; Cindy Catao – Union Emergency Medical Unit; Nick Grieco – Watchung Rescue Squad.

Additionally, Overlook recognized two members of its emergency department staff at the event for their accomplishments: Jessica Delgado-Days, a patient care technician at the emergency department at Overlook’s main campus in Summit; and Jennifer Carillo, a patient care technician at the Overlook Medical Center Union Campus’s emergency department.