San Francisco Celebrates the 2022 Emergency Medical Services Awards

May 17, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Today, Mayor London N. Breed joined Mary Ellen Carroll, Director of the Department of Emergency Management, and other City leaders to honor San Francisco Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professionals at the San Francisco EMS Awards, hosted by the Emergency Medical Services Agency, a division of the Department of Emergency Management. The annual EMS Awards recognize EMS professionals whose outstanding achievement and contribution exemplifies our City's committed EMS work force. This year marks the first in-person return of the San Francisco EMS awards after a two-year hiatus caused by COVID-19. 

The EMS Awards honor EMS professionals and community members alike that have demonstrated compassion and exemplified unmatched professionalism throughout San Francisco’s emergency medical services community, and San Franciscans in need. The theme for this year’s National EMS Week is “Rising to the Challenge,” a fitting reminder of the continued sacrifices made during the greatest health crisis in our lifetimes, in addition to ongoing citywide needs. 

Today, the following award recipients were recognized for their heroic acts and significant contributions to the emergency medical services system. 

Christopher Mendez, 2022 EMS System Dispatcher Award Recipient – On April 12, 2021, Dispatcher Christopher Mendez answered a call with a frantic and distraught tone pleading for immediate help for their unconscious loved one. Despite the caller’s extremely emotional state, Dispatcher Mendez recognized the sounds from the unconscious person as agonal breathing and began to provide the caller with clear, direct, and encouraging instructions to administer compressions. Dispatcher Mendez is commended for his incredible ability to recognize a serious medical emergency and provide clear instructions, while remaining empathic and supportive to the caller.

Jennifer Ishikawa, 2022 EMS System Field Provider Award Recipient – Jennifer Ishikawa is awarded for her sincere compassion and exceedingly warm-hearted approach to all her clients. As a community paramedic with 16 years of experience, Jennifer recognizes and advocates the needs of each frequent and marginalized client to ensure they feel heard and valued, often going out of her way to stock client’s kitchens to crafting Valentine’s Day gifts to demonstrate a token of endearment. Jennifer is commended for her human-centered approach to ensure San Francisco is a better place for every resident.

Project FRIEND (Drs. Kathy LeSaint, Juan Carlos Montoy and Eric Silverman and Ms. Virginia Chan and Ms. Theresa Sandholdt), 2022 EMS System Hospital Provider Award Recipient – Drs. Kathy LeSaint, Juan Carlos Montoy and Eric Silverman, Ms. Virginia Chan and Ms. Theresa Sandholdt, as members of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Project FRIEND team are recognized for their dedication and contributions to improve community access to naloxone to treat an opioid overdose. In partnership with the San Francisco Emergency Medical Service Agency and EMS providers, Project Friend developed the local optional scope of practice protocol for Naloxone distribution in the State of California. In 2019, San Francisco became the first county statewide to allow EMTs and paramedics to distribute naloxone to patients and bystanders alike, improving the “chain of survival” in opioid overdose response.

Matthew Faris, 2022 First Responder Award Recipient – Off-duty Firefighter Paramedic Matthew Faris observed a mid-mountain ski collision, while on vacation at a ski resort with this family. Leaving his family behind, Paramedic Faris quickly sprang into action to assess that the skier was unconscious and not breathing and instantly administered CPR and life-saving procedures. While performing CPR and relying on extensive experience, Paramedic Faris immediately requested and coordinated a helicopter rescue to transfer the victim to a trauma center to effectively treat the traumatic arrest. After Paramedic Faris assisted the rescue team with life-saving measures, the victim regained their pulse and was air-lifted to an area hospital. A few days later, the victim walked out of the hospital alive. Paramedic Faris placed his own life and his family in jeopardy to save and rescue a stranger, who would have succumbed to their injuries on the mountain, had it not been for Faris’ quick instincts, leadership, and professionalism.

Larry Para, 2022 Community Award Recipient – On January 7, 2022, Larry Para attended a show Davies Symphony Hall, when he observed a 65-year-old male collapse near the mezzanine area of the hall. As a recently retired San Francisco Fire Paramedic and highly regarded, Larry quickly assessed the patient had experienced a sudden cardiac arrest. With the assistance of another medical provider, Larry initiated CPR and used an AED to help the patient regain a pulse on scene. Retired SFFD Paramedic Para is recognized for his valiant efforts in identifying a sudden cardiac arrest victim and quickly performing CPR. Retired SFFD Paramedic Para serves as a model case for successful public CPR training, public access AED program, and early ACLS can result in a life-saving outcome.

Fred Salan, 2022 Raymond Lim Excellence in EMS Award Recipient – San Francisco Fire Department Rescue Captain Frederick M. Salan is awarded for his tremendous leadership in EMS and a shining example of integrity, hard work, and passion for patient care. Captain Salan's commitment to training, demonstrated professionalism, and patient advocacy reflects great credit upon himself and the San Francisco Fire Department.

Richard Pekelney, 2022 Mary Magocsy Excellence in EMS and Disaster Leadership – Richard Pekelney is recognized for his integral role in EMSA as a representative of the public, providing invaluable insight to improve the EMS system. During the Covid-19 Pandemic, Rich volunteered to assist the EMSA Medical Director with MHOAC functions and instrumental in establishing alternative care sites, ensuring rapid, wide, and equitable distribution critical resources across San Francisco EMS and health care facilities, including PPE to long term care facilities, critical medications and vaccine supply to high volume sites, community sites and mobile teams. Rich is an exemplary model of hard work, good humor, relationship-building, and community-mindedness, raising the standard for all who contribute to San Francisco’s EMS and emergency response system.