Eric Von Wenckstern, administrative director of Memorial Hermann Life Flight®, was recently awarded the 2013 Program Director of the Year award, sponsored by Bell Helicopter, a Textron Company, and presented by the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS). Each year, AAMS recognizes excellence in emergency medical transport through 10 different awards honoring distinction in leadership, research, safety and quality. All awards are voted on by a special committee including elite industry group representatives. Georgie Brown, RN, chief flight nurse for Life Flight, nominated Von Wenckstern for the award.
The awards are presented annually at the Air Medical Transport Conference, which took place this year on Oct. 21 in Virginia Beach, Va.
Tom Flanagan, chief operating officer of Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, who won the same award back in 1999, broke the news to Von Wenckstern during a monthly director’s meeting on Sept. 18.
“It is truly an honor to work with Eric, and I could not think of a stronger candidate for this award,” Flanagan said. “He performs his job with humility and integrity and is largely responsible for shaping Life Flight into the exceptional program that it is today.”
Each year, Bell Helicopter sponsors the award for the Director of the Year, highlighting an individual for contributions to the EMS community. Von Wenckstern was honored for his exceptional work and 32-year dedication to the industry. He started his career as a pilot and still regularly flies with his Life Flight team members. During his tenure as program director, the medical crew’s satisfaction rate has increased 17 percent, and the program has seen a 10 percent growth in volume. Von Wenckstern has significantly expanded the role and scope of Life Flight by broadening the cardiogenic shock transport program, instating a new pelvic binder protocol for the management of shock, implementing the use of ultrasounds in air, and integrating secure iPads in-flight.
Following Life Flight's long history of pioneering, Von Wenckstern helped institute two new “firsts” for the transport program. After realizing the need for red blood cells and plasma in-flight two years ago, the program has since administered blood products to nearly 300 trauma patients. The program has also introduced the use of a new tourniquet device called the JETT, developed by physicians at the Texas Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-TMC. Von Wenckstern recognized the device’s life-saving potential and today Life Flight remains the nation’s first and only air ambulance service to offer this incredible tool.
Von Wenckstern generously donates his spare time and air medical expertise to oversee the training and continuing education of his Life Flight team, local EMS, and the U.S. Army. He helped create an exclusive program for the training of Army flight medics and more than a third of the current Life Flight team has served in the U.S. military.
“I received this award thanks to the collaboration of the flight crews, physicians, hospital administration and the blood bank,” Von Wenckstern said. “Patient and employee safety are the mainstays of our daily operations. We continue to lead the nation in air medical rotor wing transport of patients thanks to the support of our hospital system and their commitment to the health of the Houston community.”