The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responders Group (FRG) relies on experienced emergency response and preparedness professionals to guide its research and development efforts. The First Responder Resource Group (FRRG) fills that role. An all-volunteer working group, the FRRG helps S&T maintain focus on the top-priority needs of responders in the field. This series highlights several FRRG members, offering a glimpse into their daily responsibilities, as well as their ongoing support of S&T technology development.
Meet Patricia J. Dukes, Deputy Chief of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates and a longtime member of the FRRG. Dukes retired as the EMS chief for the City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 30, 2015, and moved to Kuwait for a new position with the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates on May 1. As she says, “I retired from the job, not the work. I saw they [GWU Medical Faculty Associates] were advertising for positions in Kuwait, and I applied. Why Kuwait? Why not? In the past 10 years, EMS has become an important component of homeland security. I have been involved in several federal-level projects to better prepare EMS for its increasing role, including my involvement with the FRRG.”
Growing up, Dukes, a certified Mobile Intensive Care Technician, had family members who were medical professionals. Her grandmother, aunt and two cousins were all nurses. “I was fascinated with medicine, particularly first aid for injured persons that I encountered as a youth. However, I could not envision myself as a nurse. In 1972, the TV show ‘Emergency!’ inspired me to become a paramedic, which was an exciting, non-traditional medical profession for women,” she recalled. Dukes applied and was selected to attend an EMT/paramedic training program in Honolulu sponsored by the Hawaii Medical Association. This, in turn, led to her job with both the city and county of Honolulu. She has worked for over 32 years in EMS, providing pre-hospital emergency medical care and ambulance transport. Dukes rose through the ranks from field paramedic to EMS district chief of before retiring from that position.
As a field paramedic, Dukes often chose more remote areas on O’ahu because the time spent interacting with patients was longer, which was the best part of the profession for her. “High quality customer (patient) service was my goal for every encounter. I got to know my patients well. I cared for each one and interacted frequently with their families and bystanders as needed. As I was promoted, I continued to focus on quality customer service in all aspects of EMS. This meant working with internal and external customers; federal, state and local government and elected officials; the hospital system and with other public safety agencies. Although these other players were important, my top priority was always the patient and how to work together for the best outcomes for the patient.”
She represented her agency and cultivated relationships with other agencies, including non-traditional partnerships between public and private entities in and around Honolulu. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National EMS Advisory Council (NEMSAC) recognized her high quality of work, and appointed her to a two-year term on the council in 2012. NEMSAC provides advice and recommendations regarding EMS activities to the DOT and the Federal Interagency Committee on EMS (FICEMS).
“I look for opportunities to make my (and other first responders’) tasks easier, more efficient and technologically advanced.”
When asked how her role has shifted in her new position in Kuwait, Dukes indicated her typical days have been similar to those in Honolulu, “The big difference is the location. Instead of the tropical landscape of Hawaii, Kuwait is a desert. My new customers (patients) are the U.S. military and its contractors. Both locations are islands in a sense — mutual aid can be thousands of miles away and both locations are required to be self-sufficient until other help arrives. The EMS agencies employ highly competent paramedics and EMTs to prioritize, analyze and evaluate resources and capabilities to provide the best care to patients.”
Dukes was one of the original FRRG members, then called the FRWG (First Responder Working Group). She joined in 2007 after the inaugural FRWG meeting in Washington, D.C., and has participated ever since, attending conferences and providing feedback when asked. FRRG Program Manager Milt Nenneman, shared his thoughts on Dukes’ contributions to FRRG, “Having someone with Patty's experience, both operationally and administratively, has been a real benefit for the FRRG. Patty’s new experiences in Kuwait have deepened her experience and her ability to impart her expertise to first responders across the country. Patty's passion for her job and cooperative nature, along with her willingness to work with others, has made her a pleasure to be around.”
For Dukes, the FRRG is a great way for innovative and proactive thinkers to engage with DHS S&T, provide requirements and suggestions for future technologies and bring back something to their day jobs. She related, “Now, my vision is not just 180 degrees; it's almost 360! I look for opportunities to make my (and other first responders') tasks easier, more efficient and technologically advanced.”
Check back soon for additional FRRG member spotlights. For more information on how to become a member of the FRRG, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.