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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Marching in a parade.

I want to thank my colleague Mark Glencourse from Medic 999 for encouraging me to continue adding to this blog site.  I was thinking what could I possibly write about in the future and something came to me as I was coming home tonight from a very nice occasion.

Tonight was the Chinese New Year's parade celebrating the Lunar Year of the Tiger.  The parade started in 1860 and as long as I have worked in San Francisco; the Public Safety Departments, police, fire and EMS have participated in the parade.  Tonight, the Command Staff of the SFFD, three San Francisco Fire Commissioners, and many uniformed members of the department and their families marched along the route to represent the Department.  Marching with us were members of the Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams (known as CERT in some communities) and the San Francisco Fire Reserve.

I try to make it every year but sometimes other commitments took precedence but I have been lucky to participate in a majority of the CNY parades.  I noticed this year that we had more spectators and many were happy to see the fire department, we received applause and in some sections of the crowd, they cheered us loudly.  I would estimate that there was about a hundred people out tonight marching.

We had members from all ranks and nationalities participating; it just wasn't for the Chinese or Asian members of the Department.  And that was what I realized was so great.  We really are a diverse department and we are so much richer because of that.  The San Francisco Fire Department has one of the largest percentages of female firefighters and female firefighter/paramedics.  SFFD is well represented in the Asian, Hispanic, and African American communities.

I realized how important it was that we showed this diversity to our community.  When I was a child, I remember my parents telling me how important it was to study hard in school and find a nice career as a doctor, or engineer, or pharmacist, or certified public accountant.  It was important to not go into a blue collar job and seek a respectable profession that wasn't hard on the body or dangerous to life.  I know that my parents who were poor and laborers wanted something better for me and my brother and sister.

But when I became a paramedic, they were somewhat hoping that I would come to my senses and go back and study harder to try and get into medical school.  I am glad that I became a paramedic because over the years, I realized how important it was for me to go back into Chinatown and take care of an elderly woman who did not speak English.  How important it was for me to ask her the OPQRST questions in Cantonese as I was working up her chest pain.  Cultural competency is an often overlooked value in our profession and EMS education.

After the parade, we all went to a local fire station to take a group picture and then we went to a Chinese restaurant for a large banquet dinner.  The dinner was paid for by the Asian Firefighters Association and during the welcoming remarks, the President of the AFA stated how glad he was to see all of the marchers at dinner.  He told us that we were all family in the Fire Department and in the Community regardless of our nationalities or creed.

Each and everyone of us who serves the community as an EMT, Paramedic or Emergency Medical Responder has one patient in their career that they made a huge difference in.  I am glad that I became a paramedic and that I get to work in the City where I grew up and I get to make a difference in the community of my youth.  Maybe tonight, there was a young boy or girl in the crowd who saw all the diverse firefighters and paramedics and thought, "Hey, he or she looks just like me, maybe I can be a firefighter or paramedic too.."  And we in San Francisco will be so much better off because of that.

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