“We are beginning to re-think, from the ground up, how emergency medical services [EMS] operate and are ultimately reimbursed for their services. This project alone has the potential to transform EMS as we know it,” said Dana Pirolo, a recent graduate of Central Washington University’s bachelor of science in paramedicine degree program. “To be a part of something so groundbreaking is the career experience of a lifetime.”
Last fall, Pirolo was selected competitively to intern with the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in Washington, DC. He worked closely with Gregg Margolis, director of ASPR’s Division of Health Systems and Health Care Policy. Pirolo credits landing the prestigious internship directly to his enrollment in the CWU paramedicine program and to director Keith Monosky’s prodigious reputation in the field.
A graduate of Governor John R. Rogers High School in Puyallup, Pirolo started in EMS initially as a volunteer firefighter. He then went on to Bates Technical College to pursue an associate’s degree in fire science while working for Riverside Fire and Rescue in Puyallup.
“I worked as an EMT [emergency medical technician], running 911 calls—I loved doing that kind of work, particularly in being able to participate in hands-on medical interventions,” he said. “But I knew I needed more education. I looked around and CWU was one of only a few in the nation that offered a bachelor’s degree in paramedicine.”
Pirolo’s enthusiasm for the paramedicine program and his intense intellectual drive gained the attention of Margolis, who was presenting an online guest lecture during a web conference.
“I was really impressed by Dana’s interest and insight during my online lecture and encouraged him to consider applying for an internship,” Margolis said. “During the selection process, it was clear that he had a strong academic foundation and keen analytical mind. We are really glad that Dana joined our team and he really provided an important field perspective during our policy work.”
“I would like to thank Professor Monosky for his assistance in making the internship possible,” Pirolo added. “I can say without any question that I would not be where I am or have made the progress I have without his guidance, and for that I am truly grateful.
“Throughout my time at ASPR, I was tasked with several assignments that my education at Central directly prepared me for. Every aspect of material that I studied during the course of my major prepared me for the high-caliber projects that I was fortunate to be a part of.”
Pirolo was included in projects related to the meningitis outbreak and the Hurricane Sandy response. Pirolo discovered that he could not have picked a better time to be a part of the ASPR team in Washington, DC.
“In a disaster, the community responds with the systems and the resources that are in place at the time, so those systems and resources have to be prepared on a day-to-day basis to handle all kinds of disasters. The question is how to ensure that those systems and resources are ready,” Pirolo explained. “The real-time experience of being part of discussions and the generation of solutions to major problems as they presented has been phenomenal.
“I could not have asked for a better opportunity to learn. Not only have I been contributing to many great projects but I have also had the opportunity to meet many extraordinary people along the way, including HHS [Health and Human Services] and ASPR leaders.”
Pirolo will continue his studies in a master’s degree program at The George Washington University in Washington, DC, as well as instructing EMTs as an adjunct faculty member there. He also seeks to finish the aviation studies program he started at CWU; one of his long-term goals is to serve as a flight paramedic and provide medical air transport. Pirolo continues to work with ASPR supporting the development of policies on the broader integration and promotion of EMS in the healthcare system, and exploring options for funding those services.
“We need to work to better integrate EMS as a healthcare service into the broader healthcare system,” said Pirolo. “Similar to other clinical providers, EMS also needs to evolve to ensure it is delivering quality, efficient, and cost-effective care to all those it serves daily.”
Throughout all of this, Pirolo continues his “boots-on-the-ground,” hands-on work with patients by serving as a paramedic in Washington, DC.
“It’s one thing I won’t give up,” he said. “It’s part of who I am.”
For more information about CWU’s Paramedicine program, visit www.cwu.edu/health-science/paramedicine.
To learn more about ASPR and its work in emergency care, visit www.phe.gov.