Paramedic Captain April Smallwood has been named EMS Provider of the Year at the Philadelphia Fire Department.
Smallwood, a 20-year veteran of the PFD, was recognized for service in her current role as the Infection Control Officer. The ICO works to protect paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and firefighters from infectious diseases they might encounter on the job, like tuberculosis, chicken pox, flu, meningitis and now COVID-19.
“Tracking potential COVID exposures requires a new level of vigilance,” Smallwood said. “So does training PFD members on how to wear personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, face shields and respirators — because we will always respond to these types of calls.”
Battalion Chief Daniel Cowden, who works in the PFD’s Health & Safety Office, nominated Smallwood for the honor even before the coronavirus pandemic began, saying she “consistently sets the bar high.”
“Captain Smallwood is committed to the highest ideals of the department and continually does the right things for the right reasons,” Cowden wrote.
Assistant Deputy Commissioner for EMS Crystal Yates has worked with Smallwood for many years — most recently on the PFD’s internal COVID-19 Task Force, which assists members who have been exposed to the illness.
“If I could take you behind the scenes, you would be amazed at Captain Smallwood’s perfect mix of compassion and tenacity,” said Yates. “She works around the clock to keep our members safe.”
Smallwood spent her first 14 years with the PFD as a paramedic at Medic 22 in North Philly. As she and her partner transferred EMS patients to hospitals, Smallwood decided she wanted to learn more about the procedures she saw nurses and doctors performing. So she went back to school and became a registered nurse.
“I had the street knowledge, but I had no idea what happened after we left the Emergency Department,” she said. “Becoming a nurse taught me that everything we do in EMS helps determine a patient’s outcome. What we do matters.”
Smallwood was chosen for this recognition by the PFD Historical Corp., which operates Fireman’s Hall Museum. Because of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, a ceremony in her honor will be held at a future date.