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Unique Partnership Helps Train U.S. Air Force Elite

April 24, 2015

The Department of Emergency Medicine is marking a major milestone in a unique partnership with the United States Air Force. They are celebrating the ten year anniversary of a program that helps provide paramedic training for elite Air Force Pararescue candidates.

For the past decade, Drexel University College of Medicine, Hahnemann University Hospital and the Philadelphia Fire Department have hosted Pararescue paramedic students during an eight-week clinical and field internship in the hospital’s emergency department, labor and delivery center, intensive care units and operating room. Students learn critical lifesaving emergency procedures, physical assessment skills, medication administration and patient communication techniques. St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children joined the program in 2013 to help provide the paramedic students a pediatric learning experience. In total, the facilities have help train more than 220 students in over 70,000 medical procedures and 82,000 patient encounters. The Philadelphia Fire Department trained students as lead paramedics in over 20,000 emergency responses.

“It is a true testament to the high quality of patient care and training the city of Philadelphia offers,” said Scott Valenti, director of the Pararescue Paramedic Program at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Philadelphia is one of the best cities for providing top-notch emergency training. We value the dedication and professionalism the staffs at these facilities afford our students. The Philadelphia clinical training partnership is the backbone of our clinical training.”

The Pararescuemen (PJs) are the only Department of Defense elite combat forces specifically organized, trained, equipped and postured to conduct full-spectrum personnel recovery to include both conventional and unconventional combat rescue operations. These battlefield airmen are the most highly trained and versatile personnel recovery specialists in the world. Pararescue is the nation’s force of choice to execute the most perilous, demanding and extreme rescue missions anytime, anywhere across the globe, operating as independent teams or as attachments to U.S. and Allied Special Operations Forces. Their mission is to rescue, recover and return American or Allied forces in times of danger or extreme duress.

“These paramedic students are an incredible group of young professionals. They live the same core values that we all share as health professionals: ‘These things we do…that others may live,’” said Richard Hamilton, MD, professor and chairman of Drexel’s Department of Emergency Medicine, and himself a retired U.S. Navy Captain and former Naval Flight Surgeon. “We are proud and honored to play a role in their training knowing that soon after they leave, they are on the front lines making a difference”

There are more than 500 PJs assigned to Guardian Angel and Special Tactics Squadrons throughout the Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve Air Force components. All PJs are certified National Registry Paramedics and Battlefield Trauma Medics. Their medical training includes a six-month paramedic didactic program, two-month clinical and field internship, and a six-week combat medical course known as “Dirt Medicine.”

Drexel's Partnership to train pararescue candidates for the U.S. Air Force

Dr. Richard Hamilton receives a Golden Angel statue in appreciation of his leadership in helping to train U.S. Air Force Pararescue paramedic students in the Emergency Department at Hahnemann University Hospital. Pictured with Hamilton from left to right: William Schroeder, Lt. Col., Commander, 342nd Training Squadron; Scott Valenti, director of the Pararescue Paramedic Program; and Michael Halter, CEO of Hahnemann University Hospital.

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