Waterbury Ambulance Service Executive Director Mark Podgwaite. Photo by Gordon Miller

Reprinted courtesy of the Waterbury Roundabout

By Lisa Scagliotti

Waterbury Ambulance Service Executive Director Mark Podgwaite is the recipient of the 2022 EMS Lifetime Award from the state of Vermont. Photo by Gordon Miller

To mark National EMS Week, the state of Vermont honored various emergency service responders this past week, announcing Friday that Waterbury Ambulance Service chief Mark Podgwaite is the recipient of a lifetime achievement award.

The Vermont EMS Lifetime Award each year goes to an “individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the advancement of EMS prehospital care representing in effect, a lifetime of outstanding service to the profession and the public,” the award announcement states.

Podgwaite said his public safety career dates back to the 1970s in Connecticut where he began as a fire and EMS volunteer. In 1992, he signed on as a firefighter in Northfield and joined Northfield Ambulance in 1996, where he remains a member today. In 2017, Podgwaite became executive director at Waterbury Ambulance Service. He previously worked in other EMS leadership roles including operations director at Lyndon Rescue and assistant chief of Northfield Ambulance; he currently heads one of the state’s regional EMS districts as well.

In nominating Podgwaite, Waterbury Ambulance Service administrator Maggie Burke, highlighted Podgwaite as a role model calling him a positive and supportive leader.

Podgwaite’s career has garnered him various awards and recognitions over the years, including leading the Northfield service when it was named best in the state in 2009 and Waterbury last year for that honor. His career in EMS includes over two decades of teaching, and training new personnel. “He has trained countless EMTs throughout the state and remembers everyone. He holds each of his students to a high standard and continues to provide guidance throughout their career,” Burke said in her nomination.

Over the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Burke said Podgwaite’s expertise and dedication have guided the Waterbury agency’s expansion and deployment to add daily testing and vaccination efforts to their usual duties of community emergency response. Waterbury Ambulance has grown from two full-time employees and 30 volunteers to a team of more than 200 employees focused on pandemic response, working with dozens of other ambulance services, businesses and community organizations around Vermont on testing and vaccination efforts. She noted that a recent collaboration with Mad River Valley Ambulance Service collected supplies to send to refugees in Ukraine.

Other Waterbury Ambulance team members contributed to Podgwaite’s nomination. “Without missing a beat, Mark answered the call at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and has become a leader in the vital role of EMS in our testing and vaccination infrastructure statewide. Without his leadership, we would be in a very different place as a town, and possibly as a state,” said volunteer Jamie Benson.

Waterbury Ambulance board vice president Jim Birmingham noted Podgwaite’s breadth of experience. “Mark has been a longtime member of the Vermont EMS community in a variety of roles including volunteer, educator, district administrator, and agency chief among many others,” he wrote stressing Podgwaite as an effective leader with crews, running programs, and overseeing the business of a community agency that has mushroomed in size and mission during the pandemic.

Podgwaite reflected on the honor and emphasized that accolades for the work carried out be shared. “Everything that has been accomplished was and is a team effort,” he said. “I am surrounded by a great team of folks whom I relish. They never say ‘no’ to whatever crazy plan I come up with to serve the folks we serve.”