Dawn Marie Dern has been a star for Plum EMS for many years.
With two decades of service to the ambulance company, the full-time emergency medical technician (EMT) and quality assurance program specialist now has the plaque to prove it.
Dern was one of 12 people in the state to receive this year’s Stars of Life Award from the Pennsylvania EMS Provider Foundation.
The award is designed to honor those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, set an example for others to follow and exemplified EMS in the community, according to the foundation’s website.
“It’s an opportunity for any EMS agency to honor one of their best and brightest,” said foundation director Heather Sharar. “It’s meant to be a morale booster. It’s not political. It is for EMS agencies to honor who they feel is deserving.
“You have certain EMS staff who stand out, who go above and beyond, and you want them to know that you appreciate them.”
Dern and other honorees were recognized at the 15th annual Stars of Life Awards banquet in Harrisburg on Sept. 11.
Sharar said there have been 12 people honored each year for the last several years. EMS providers can nominated up to two people per year.
Dern was nominated by Plum EMS director of operations Brian Maloney.
“She has become a leader of the organization, a friend and resource for team members, and integral part of the success of the organization,” Maloney said via email. “She is a good friend to everyone all while being a phenomenal pre-hospital care provider and an outstanding advocate for her patients and their family.”
Her daughter, Shannon, had volunteered to participate in the foundation’s annual memorial bike ride Sept. 10-12. It’s a three-day cycling event meant to honor and memorialize the lives of Pennsylvania EMS providers who have died in the line of duty. Shannon is not part of Plum EMS, but represented the ambulance company in the bike ride.
Dern said she thought the banquet was just part of the family trip to support other medical providers.
“I was completely surprised,” Dern said. “Nobody told me what we were going out for. I had no idea that I was getting this award until Brian went up to the podium and called my name,” she said. “I was completely shocked. I was super humbled by it.”
Dern, 58, started her Plum EMS service as a volunteer under the leadership of former director Tom Izydore. The former x-ray technologist continues to go out on calls and trains to retain her EMT status.
“I believe it is a calling,” Dern said. “I feel like everybody who does that job is meant to be there or very quickly they’ll be weeded out.”
She credits being able to continue serving in emergencies situations to borough firefighters doing the heavy lifting on calls.
Dern said she accepted the award on behalf of those grinding out medical service day in and day out.
“I don’t have any big saves or big mass casualty accidents that I ran,” she said. “It’s not so much about me, but it is about the EMS of every day. Every day it’s about being human. It’s about going above and beyond for the people of our community.
“All the people that I work with are deserving of this award. It’s about listening to worried families. It’s about making calm out of a chaos. It’s about being gentle and kind, and every single one of my coworkers do that every single day.”
When Dern, wife of Plum Councilman Paul Dern, is not in an ambulance or helping families, she is making sure all patient care reports are completed properly and submitted within the state’s regulation of 72 hours. Plum EMS’ goal is 24 hours.
Maloney said she has been dubbed “Queen B” of the station who came up with a unique approach to improve the organization’s reporting success.
An 8-foot-long, 4-foot-high horse racetrack was posted on the wall in the living area of the station with horses for each team member.
Maloney said it became a race for everyone to complete their reports within 24 hours and has been a huge success.
Plum EMS has achieved the state requirement of patient care reports for three years running and are in the 97th percentile for having the reports completed within 24 hours.
“She is constantly helping make sure everyone does their part to take care of their home away from home,” Maloney said. “She places table decorations that are sometimes the most peculiar set-ups but become the topic of conversations amongst crews for hours. She even recently set up a ladder in the living area and hung blankets.
“It is not uncommon to see a crew member nestled in a recliner bundled up in one of those blankets. She does everything she can to help the team find a moment of comfort in what can be a very stressful job.
“This is just a snapshot of the impact she has and how much she cares.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .