Winning Essay by William D. From Mississippi Attending South Alabama

Winning Essay by William D. From Mississippi Attending South Alabama
George McCrary drives a cab in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He works long hours for little pay, transporting people from one place to another: to work, to stores, to hotels, to the airport, and sometimes to the hospital. Most of his passengers would never imagine that, decades ago, George McCrary transported people to some of those same hospitals many times a day, but not in a taxi. 
In the mid-1960s, Pittsburgh — like most U.S. cities — was segregated by race. Yet people of all races needed emergency services, just as today. However, unlike today, neither public ambulatory care nor paramedics existed in Pittsburgh or anywhere else. When people suffered injury or illness, local police would respond and transport the victims to the hospital, if necessary. Unfortunately, police were not equipped to treat patients in route to the hospital and, worse, they would often respond with less urgency to the low-income, predominantly African-American communities that were considered dangerous due to their history of rioting.
Pittsburgh philanthropist Phil Hallen along with Dr. Peter Safar, who pioneered cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), saw an opportunity to change the world for the better. Forming the Freedom House Ambulance Service, Hallan and Safar began to recruit young African American men and train them to provide first-responder medical services in emergency rooms on wheels. These young men — many who were high school dropouts — became the world’s first paramedics. George McCrary was one of these EMTs.
He vividly remembers the work: "A lot of people came to a lot of activity ... people had seizures, strokes, gunshots, stabbings, heart attacks, the whole nine yards, right here in this area." George McCrary and Freedom House courageously responded to all of it, quickly and with the right equipment, saving many lives when minutes mattered.
Now, as I work toward a degree in paramedic medicine, my admiration continues to grow for George McCrary and the 24 other African American emergency medical technicians who paved the way for my career in this field. I’m compelled to consider how the world must certainly be a better place because George McCrary and his colleagues were present; how they must have inevitably saved the lives of future teachers, doctors, mothers, fathers, law enforcement officers, and countless others. How might the world be different if paramedics like George McCrary didn’t exist?

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