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Paramedic’s Corner: Remembering past medical colleagues from the area
Paramedic’s Corner: Remembering past medical colleagues from the area

Gary Carmack
What to write about on Memorial Weekend? I thought about an article on injury and death prevention, but I often pen those preventive articles. It seems a good time to reflect on people that are gone — many of my friends and mentors from my early paramedic career at the now-closed Pulaski County Memorial Hospital.

I was thinking of the crusty old surgeon, Dr. Harvey Nickels, who taught me so much about trauma. When I was a boy he gave me shots in the butt, and then years later we would sit at a table in the hospital cafeteria and discuss trauma cases.

Dr. R.O. DeWitt, who brought me into this world (he delivered me), cared so much about his patients he often couldn’t (or wouldn’t) sleep at night worrying about them. When I first worked at PCMH I worked a lot of nights. I worked with a guy named Richard York. We would frequently hear these footsteps between 2 and 4 a.m. coming up the hall. We knew it was Dr. DeWitt by his quick short steps. He would say, “Boys, can you make us some coffee? I’m going up to the patient ward and see about (patient so-and-so), then we’ll drink some coffee.” We worried about his health as he would pace the floor and worry about his patients. Dr. DeWitt taught us so much about “caring.”

My primary mentor, who was really like a second father to me, was Dr. Warren B. Hamilton — the best emergency room doctor I ever worked with. He was calm, cool under pressure, always a patient advocate and a staunch believer in “First do no harm.” He was very thoughtful and intelligent ... a deep thinker, always wanting to research things and practice the best possible medicine. Dr. Hamilton was my first medical director, at a time when many physicians and nurses didn’t understand paramedics. This was the early 1970s and few people knew anything about paramedics except what they had seen on television watching Johnny and Roy in Emergency, and they were associated with a fire truck, not an ambulance. Thankfully, Dr. Hamilton understood what was occurring in America and allowed me to administer IVs, medications and other skills I was being taught at the paramedic school of the University of Missouri Medical Center in Columbia.

Much of my paramedic career was shaped by these excellent physicians and I miss them dearly. I spent many a coffee session asking them questions and gaining patient knowledge. Sadly, today, few paramedics are fortunate enough to have that kind of education available. I try my best to pass those physicians’ knowledge on through my first responder, EMT and paramedic students ... that is the greatest honor I can give them.

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