Up Close | UCSF Fresno and American Ambulance Partner for Award-Winning Educational Emergency Medical Services Podcast

A unique podcast for paramedics and EMTS (emergency medical technicians) produced by American Ambulance and hosted by UCSF Fresno Emergency Medicine physicians has won statewide acclaim and drawn listeners from as far away as Alaska and Australia.

The American Ambulance EMS podcast received the California Ambulance Association Services Excellence (CAASE) Award for Innovation in EMS in 2021, and an episode about amputations ranked among the Top 12 podcasts in 2021.

The Innovation Award recognized the unique partnership between American Ambulance and UCSF Fresno physicians Danielle Campagne, MD, FACEP, vice chair of Emergency Medicine at UCSF Fresno, UCSF associate professor of Emergency Medicine and American Ambulance medical director; Patil Armenian, UCSF associate professor of Emergency Medicine and co-director of Toxicology at UCSF Fresno; and Saajan Bhakta, DO, UCSF Fresno fourth-year Emergency Medicine resident. “I listen to a lot of EMS (Emergency Medical Services) podcasts and sometimes they include the medical director, but I have not found one with three physicians dedicated to each and every podcast,” said Steve Melander, chief operations officer at American Ambulance.

The podcast has been well received, Melander said. “What makes it so good is you have those three physicians with various backgrounds and experiences.”

Melander got the idea of starting an EMS podcast two years ago. He had been looking for a new way for EMS field staff to receive educational information. He pitched the idea of a podcast to Dr. Campagne, who initially hesitated. “I am not a techy,” she explained. But she mentioned the concept to her colleague, Dr. Armenian. “I love podcasts and I listen to podcasts all of the time,” Dr. Armenian said. “I told Dr. Campagne, ‘we’re doing the podcast and I’m doing it with you.’” The professors brought aboard Dr. Bhakta, who has an interest in pre-hospital and disaster medicine – and who is an avid podcast listener. Melander tapped John-Mark Bergen, multi-media arts specialist at American Ambulance, to produce the podcast.

The first episode of American Ambulance EMS aired in April 2020 – a month after the World Health Organization proclaimed COVID-19 a pandemic. “It was perfect timing for what we needed for EMS education locally and nationally,” said Dr. Campagne. “We can’t get people in a room together and it is difficult to coordinate schedules to do EMS education on Zoom.” Field staff can listen to episodes on shifts while driving or at times of their convenience. Episodes are recorded in the ambulance company’s conference room, which has space for the physicians to maintain social distance. “The mics are spread out as far as they can and still be plugged into my computer,” Bergen said. “And we’re all masked up,” said Dr. Armenian.

The physicians had recorded 60 episodes as of December 2021. They record up to three episodes at one sitting and take turns as content director. Research is done for each topic and an outline of the contents is created prior to the recording. The preparation allows for a conversation among themselves and with a guest instead of giving a lecture about the evidence-based research and practices. Dr. Campagne is comfortable with the format. “It’s not recorded live – we can make edits – and John-Mark makes us sound good. “It’s turned out to be very fun,” she said.

Podcast topics have ranged from anaphylaxis (a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction) to dental emergencies, stroke and hypothermic cardiac arrest. They also have included a discussion about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). “Some of the episodes are very medical, such as how to stop bleeding, but some episodes look at the super-fast decision making and innerworkings of an EMS system,” Dr. Armenian said.

American Ambulance paramedics are often guests on the podcast. “We like to highlight the unsung heroes,” Dr. Campagne said. EMS field staff provide a lot of the experience in the community, Dr. Bhakta said. “We have episodes where we interview the most experienced medics out there. And they have been great sources for ideas and topics and experiences to talk about.”

Bergen looks forward to recording Drs. Campagne, Armenian and Bhakta. “It’s an awesome group,”’ and the topics are interesting. “It has been really eye-opening for me. You can think that you’re not a doctor or a paramedic and that there is ‘nothing for me here,’ but I actually understand and appreciate the podcast and I learn something every time. It’s accessible,” he said.

“American Ambulance has a desire not only to provide valuable information to our employees who serve our community, but to anyone working in EMS and emergency medicine,” said Erik S. Peterson, Esq., general manager at American Ambulance. The dedication of Dr. Campagne and the other doctors and her guests has been inspiring. Certainly, some of our content is considered in the context of our local policies, but they have covered many topics that even the general public may benefit from. We are grateful. It has been an exciting program and we are excited we can offer it.”

Dr. Armenian appreciates the commitment that American Ambulance has shown the podcast team. “They are supportive of our creativity,” she said. And Dr. Bhakta said, “it’s a great collaboration and I’m excited to be doing it.” Dr. Campagne has been medical director at American Ambulance for the past 2 ½ years and said UCSF Fresno values its relationship with American Ambulance. “We are a unique collaborative partnership,” she said.