As a career paramedic, little surprises Kristine Kern, but when she discovered she’d won the Vanguard Award, she was pleasantly taken aback.
“I had no idea I was even nominated until I got an email congratulating me as a winner,” Kern, emergency medical services, paramedic professor and clinical coordinator said. “I’m one of 23 people in the country to get this, the only one in Texas, and, among them, I’m the only educator. Learning all that humbled me to tears.”
Significance of the award
The American Ambulance Association’s inaugural Vanguard Awards included 23 women who represent a diverse group of EMS professionals who have 35+ years of excellence in mobile healthcare. Winners were recognized at the President’s Reception of the American Ambulance Association Annual Conference & Trade Show in Las Vegas June 26-28, 2023.
At the conference, Kern was elected the Texas Chapter Leader for the National Organization of Women in Emergency Services, and her closest friends and family were there to witness her special moment.
“I remain incredibly humbled and honored receiving such a prestigious award,” Kern said. “Lifetime career achievement recognition is something I never expected and could’ve completed my career without, but I am truly honored to have been recognized among such accomplished women.”
A passion for teaching
Kern has been an EMS/paramedic for almost 36 years and teaching for 28 years, the last 10 at San Jac.
“I broke my leg badly at work in the 90’s and was compelled to go into teaching. I stayed because I loved it,” she said. “I decided I would continue to volunteer as a paramedic in my community. I was the assistant chief for the Friendswood EMS for 10 years.”
Even during her down time, she is thinking of ways to improve the learning environment for her students.
I absolutely love what I do. My favorite part of the job is figuring out how to teach medicine in different ways because every student understands things a little differently. I enjoy witnessing their ‘aha’ moment.
For example, when teaching about heart and circulation, she might use a fire truck, car engine, or a plumbing system to illustrate how it works. She also creates games to make learning fun.
“I don’t believe a student should learn how I teach, but rather I need to teach how each student learns. It’s incredibly important,” she said.
Career inspiration started at home
Both Kern’s parents were volunteer fire fighters for their community.
“Long before 9-1-1, we had these red phones in the house called fire phones,” she said. “You’d dial a seven-digit number, it would ring three times, then someone would pick it up and give the information, like a dispatch. Several people in the community wanted to help, so they joined forces and trained to be in the fire department, my parents included.”
At age 8, Kern watched her mom get involved with the fire department, mostly considered a man’s job then. She found it fascinating and would often play a victim in the training sessions.
“I knew very young what I wanted to do,” Kern said. “Right out of high school, I attended San Antonio Community College. I became a paramedic on the day I turned 19. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s absolutely the only thing I ever wanted to do.”
What the future holds
Although she’s at the tail end of her career, now eligible for retirement, she’s not ready to call it quits just yet.
“My most important professional goal is to keep making a difference, keep plugging along, keep improving myself so I can do better for the students,” she said. “Many start off having no medical knowledge, to becoming a licensed paramedic, autonomous in the field treating patients, and I enjoy being part of that journey.”