Ambulance Association Honors Heroes

The American Ambulance Association’s “Stars of Life” program recognizes heroes, showcases the profession’s good work, and builds relationships with legislators.

To recognize ambulance services professionals for their selfless acts and outstanding work, the American Ambulance Association (AAA) honored 103 “Stars of Life” last week in a three-day event in Washington, DC.

The honorees came from 90 communities in 29 states, plus Trinidad and Tobago. They included paramedics who responded to the San Bernardino terrorist attack, an EMT who singlehandedly provided initial triage to pedestrians hit by a car on a busy sidewalk on the Las Vegas strip, and a paramedic who responded to a school bus accident in Kentucky in which three children died and several were injured.

The Stars of Life program honors medics and EMS personnel who serve the public 365 days a year. “They miss holidays and events with family to ensure that members of the community have access to healthcare,” said Maria Bianchi, AAA’s executive vice president.

The program’s benefits go beyond rewarding individual heroes. “It’s an opportunity for us to showcase what EMS professionals do—to the media, members of Congress, regulators, and elected officials in [attendees’] home states,” Bianchi said. The stars visit Capitol Hill to share their stories, and they also invite members of Congress to visit local ambulance services and go on ride-alongs.

During the Stars of Life visits, lobbying is secondary to relationship building. “So often, when trade associations for health agencies go to Capitol Hill, it’s about asking for something,” Bianchi said.

What these meetings do is allow legislators to see a different side of the industry, from the line staff—a day in the life of a dispatcher or paramedic, for example. That interaction “changes the dynamic of the relationship with the member of Congress,” she said.

That is part of the reason why AAA continues to keep its main lobbying day as a separate event. Bianchi suggested that it’s a good idea for associations to consider whether their public affairs or grassroots programs include “an opportunity to build relationships without an ask.”

Stars of Life also serves as a networking and learning opportunity for attendees. It “exposes up-and-coming leaders to a more national perspective” that they might not see in their day-to-day jobs, and it gives them a glimpse of what’s happening in Washington that affects them, Bianchi said. And while attendees network with their peers, the event helps the association identify young leaders.

Aside from individual heroes, Stars of Life also highlights ambulance services professionals’ collective efforts, such as responding to natural disasters. “I know the good work that associations do out there, and it’s important to take a moment to stop and reward and recognize people—and perhaps do some cheerleading,” Bianchi said.


Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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