By Kate Hunger
The Department of Emergency Health Sciences graduated 29 San Antonio Fire Department paramedic trainees on August 11, making the program's 50th graduating class.
The City of San Antonio contracts with UT Health San Antonio to provide paramedic training to firefighters. The first class graduated in 1974.
Before paramedic training arrived in San Antonio, EMS services were minimal, with funeral homes sending employees in hearses or makeshift ambulances to emergency scenes, said Lance Villers, Ph. D., department chair.
"EMS as a profession in the United States was very young and San Antonio was one of the first cities in the country to have an organized training program for this new level of emergency provider called a paramedic, " he said.
The first paramedic training class came about through a partnership of several groups, including UT Health San Antonio's Department of Orthopedics, San Antonio College, and SAFD.
The City of San Antonio began offering ambulance service staffed by firefighters trained as paramedics.
"It's come a long way fairly quickly, but it does show that EMS is still a relatively young health profession," Dr. Villers said. "It really was modernized during the Vietnam War. The training the medics received on the battlefield eventually began to transfer to the civilian world."
The current course consists of 1,100 hours over seven months of training, five days a week.
"The level of knowledge and training and medication and equipment that they now have to be proficient in is light years ahead of that first class in 1974," Dr. Villers said, adding that the SAFD now has more than 800 certified paramedics, the highest number in its history.