U.S. District Court Judge John Sirica delivered the graduation address this week to the city's first class of licensed paramedics in a ceremony attended by government and community service officials at Georgetown University.
"Today is a day of new life for the people of the District of Columbia,"said Sirica. "Today is a day of tribute for the first paramedics class of the nation's capital."
After his speech, Sirica was presented with a certificate and a star of life pin - the nation's new emergency medical insignia - recognizing him as an honorary member of Washington's paramedics corps.
The 16 paramedics were retrained this year in a 120-hour refresher course and 30-day intership program to meet newly developed certification guidelines established by the D.C. Department of Human Resources. Last year the class of 15 men and one woman completed 520 hours of training but was unable to practice because no licensing guidelines had been set.
The District now has one ambulance equipped for paramedic services, available around the clock. The ambulance is operated by three-person teams, each working an eight-hour shift.Another paramedic class is in training now.
Robert "Hap" Arnold, coordinator of the emergency medical service program, said the present guidelines require the graduates to demonstrate proficiency in understanding and administering 13 drugs, reading numerous EKG charts, setting up intravenous systems and communicationg information rapidly and accurately.
I'm just about to flip off!" exclaimed an excited Rose Queen, a former nurse at Children's Hospital who is part of the three-member paramedic team that operates "Mobile 25" on the midnight to 8 a.m. shift.
On Nov. 1, Queen said, she and partners Charlie Darden and John Avery became the first team to be sent out on its own.
"The first case we had was a man with chest pains and difficult breathing," she said. "This was the first time I was involved in a situation where I could use drugs.
"I felt real good that I could do something and see the improvement in it. I felt this was what it was all about."
After the patient was stabilized the crew spent a few moments congratulating each other on a job well done, said Queen. Since the service went into effect, Arnold estimates the paramedics have helped save 36 persons who might have died without the paramedics' assistance.
Members of Washington's first paramedic team include: John d. Avery, Robert W. Brenneman, Russell B.Bishop, Joseph L. Burrell, Charles M. Darden, Wesley H. Fields, Richard C. Gilliland, James T. Green Roger A.Hooper, Danny R. Mott, Jon O. Nusser, Robert E. Powell, Rose L. Queen, John T. Spruill, Raymond A. Valencis and Nolan N. Williams.