Walsh announces Scholarships to diversify Boston EMS

Building on a commitment to promote diversity and inclusion among the ranks of Boston Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston EMS Chief James Hooley last Friday announced new paramedic certification scholarships for current EMS members.

Coordinated through the United Coalition of EMS Providers (UCEP), a Boston EMS affinity group dedicated to advancing equity, inclusion and diversity at all ranks, and in partnership with both the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (OWD) and Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), 16 emergency medical technicians are now beginning their coursework at Bunker Hill Community College to become certified paramedics. This program is designed to expand the diversity of Boston EMS members holding a paramedic certification.

“Boston is a diverse city, and it’s crucial that our public safety services in Boston, including our paramedics, reflect our neighborhoods, and our values,” said Mayor Walsh. “I’m proud that with this scholarship, we will continue to support diversity at Boston EMS, and care for all those who call Boston home.”

Boston EMS paramedics staff five frontline ambulances, providing advanced life-saving care during medical emergencies across the city. Paramedics are state-certified EMTs who hold an additional certification, expanding their scope of practice to include complex procedures, such as intubations and starting an IV. Boston EMS members promoted to the rank of paramedic earn approximately 36 percent more than an EMT. 

“I am very proud of what UCEP was able to accomplish in just five short months, securing Mayoral support and funding, as well as coordinating directly with Bunker Hill Community College; increasing the diversity of our paramedics will result in a direct benefit inpatient care,” said Boston EMS Chief of Department, Jim Hooley.    

The professional development and advancement of Boston EMS members have been ongoing department priorities. Boston EMS has worked with multiple paramedic training programs and colleges to reduce barriers for all interested personnel to advance their education. 

Boston EMS has maintained a longstanding commitment to hiring candidates that reflect the racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity of Boston’s neighborhoods. While 40 percent of personnel hired in the last three years are women and 36 percent identify as Asian, Black or African American, Latinx or more than two races, personnel holding the rank of paramedic just are 6 percent persons of color and 19 percent women. The paramedic certification, which can cost over $10,000 to secure, can be cost-prohibitive for members, making it difficult to build diversity at this rank.

“The Boston EMS members selected for the paramedic UCEP scholarship are 75 percent women (12 of 16), 37 percent bilingual (6), and 94 percent (15) people of color. Eligibility for selection included UCEP membership, open to all members of Boston EMS, and a commitment to promoting equity and inclusion,” said Deputy Lee Alexander, who leads Diversity, Recruitment and Engagement for the department and is a board member of United Coalition of EMS Providers. 

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the events of 2020, members of Boston EMS hosted a listening session for personnel to talk about their own experiences with racial discrimination in the spring of 2020.

This work with OWD is an expansion of their ongoing partnership with Boston EMS to help city residents secure necessary training to meet the EMT hiring prerequisites through their EMT City Academy program.

“We are fully committed to the equitable access of education and training for all Boston residents,” said Trinh Nguyen, Director of OWD. “It’s not only a priority value of this city, but it is an amazing investment for our business and economy.”

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