Be A Mr. Ford



Life is full of opportunities – some you grab and some you pass.  Hopefully, those you seize will turn out well; be it in your personal or professional life.  I’ve been very fortunate as many of the opportunities that I migrated toward have been a blessing.

Mr. Ford sitting in a chair on a basketball court sideline.While I have written on more than one occasion about the changes in the EMS profession, my offering today is one of reflection and one which I hope you will take to heart.  

As a high school freshman, I had a very forward-thinking and innovative health and phys-ed teacher.  His name was Bob Ford.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, Mr. Ford made a profound impact on my life that I realize more today than when I sat in classroom #239 at John H. Linton Middle School.  Mr. Ford possessed the uncanny ability to motivate young people and make them think about doing something positive with their lives.  

Mr. Ford always struck a chord with me, and I enjoyed his classes. Bob Ford was easy-going but firm when needed and I appreciated having him as an educator. Mr. Ford was famous for introducing us to different careers that we, as young people, should begin thinking about – not down the road but right then.  A photo of Mr. Ford wearing a suit in front of American and Pennsylvanian flags.Often, he would bring in guest speakers to talk to our unruly class.  Many were community people; dentists, police officers, doctors, lawyers, and truck drivers who told us about their jobs and what they did to earn a living.  To be honest, most of these people were great to listen to but none of them really got my attention until a gentleman named Glenn Cannon visited our class one day in 1972.  Mr. Ford had asked Glenn to speak to us about something I had never heard much about before, it was called pre-hospital care/mobile emergency medical services.  At first, I thought “Here we go, another guest speaker for health class today,” but I soon was drawn to Glenn’s subject matter, and I listened intently about his involvement in this new and growing profession.  Sadly, Glenn passed a few years ago but his legacy has made a lasting impact on emergency medical services across the nation.

I can’t recall what drew me to take in every word that Glenn spoke.  Was it the excitement of something new, was it the ability to care for those suddenly stricken ill, or injured, was it something else about his talk that day?  I honestly don’t know, but Glenn’s 40-minute lecture was intriguing – it grabbed me.  

While I was never much of an engaging conversationalist during my teen years, I went home from school that day and bubbled over about health class.   I think my parents were amazed that I could even verbalize let alone talk incessantly about something that really fascinated me.  I was hooked.  I wanted more information, I wanted to learn more about opportunities in this fledgling profession, and I lived to watch the show “EMERGENCY” every Saturday night to fuel my appetite.  I couldn’t get enough of this emergency medical stuff.  

2 firefighters stand in front of a firetruck with smoke in the backgroundThat was 1972 and as I write this, it’s 51 years later and although my days in the field have long ended, my deep involvement with some facet of EMS has never ceased.  As I write this, I am 22 days from retirement, and I look forward to my next chapter with family, friends, and grandkids.  People told me early in my career, this is a young man’s job.  I guess I have proven many wrongs along this 5-decade ride.  

One might ask, where am I going with this blog and the answer is simple.  Never forget your roots, never forget the Mr. Fords in your life, and for those of you that are involved in EMS, never think that it’s anything less than an honorable profession that you can do in some way, shape, or form for many years.  I am living proof of this and have always been very proud to be associated with this unique and honorable industry.

Through the years, my job has led me to over 40 states – trade shows, conferences, and speaking engagements have kept me moving around the country.  I have seen many EMS professionals serving in many different capacities.  Funny, to my amazement, we all bleed the same blood and share the same frustrations and worries about the future of the ambulance/EMS industry.  While we don’t always have the answers, it’s heartening that the problems we perceive in the profession are not just local or statewide problems.  Reimbursement, succession planning, job stability, and retention are just a few of the big issues affecting our profession from Bonney Lake, Washington to Irwin, Pennsylvania.  

While I have concerns and worries, I also see that there are many – I repeat many, professionals who still have the same zeal for the profession as I have had for over 50 years.  This is heartening to me and gives me hope for the future.  

For those of you who are in this profession, I ask that you continue to care about it – not so much as a job but as a valued heirloom that you’ve been given.  Represent our profession well.  Carry the torch and be an advocate, not just an employee.  Talk to young people, encourage your co-workers to always do their best, and remember that the patient you’re treating has loved ones, friends, and colleagues that don’t want to see anything happen to them.  Be a Mr. Ford and get others interested in this worthy profession.  And one more thing, be kind, be caring, and treat people in their worst hour like you want to be treated each day.  Touch people’s hearts with the care you give.  Lay a hand on a nervous patient and you will benefit more than you will ever imagine.   Thank your family for trying to understand your profession when it is disruptive to the family structure. You will feel good about yourself for doing so.  

As I reflect upon the past decades just one word comes to mind…grateful. It’s obvious to me, God had a plan and I quickly fell in love with it. This field has changed so much in 50 years and I’m grateful to have witnessed the progress. I’ve met so many amazing individuals who have taught me so much. I’ve also worked with some amazing people along the way and with an awesome team today. Many people have asked me why I remained attached to EMS.  Few understand the blessings and joy this profession brings. I never felt I HAVE to do this job.  Moreover, I GET to do this job in this honorable profession, and I am forever grateful.

To all of you who serve, God Bless you.  You will never be rich in the wallet, but you will be a better person for the lives you’ve touched.  It has been an honor to walk alongside so many of you over these 50 years.

Good luck, God Bless and so long for now.


*Gary Harvat is QMC’s Vice President of Client Success and a veteran healthcare provider with over 40 years of emergency medical services experience. 


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