Paul Kearns

Over twenty five years ago, I was working as a boat captain on the Long Island Sound. It was a beautiful summer day around dusk when someone collapsed near me on the dock I was operating. This man was turning blue, and after being frozen with fear I did the only thing I knew to do which was to run for help. 

After that, I never wanted to be controlled by indecision again and decided to take control by getting involved in my local emergency medical services service. It started me down a path that I still carry forward.

I am fortunate to be involved with such a great group of people from North Carolina. Their dedication, passion, and endless effort lead the way for our American Heart Association (AHA) Advocacy team. After dedicating my adult life to the service of others through medicine, advocacy allows me to carry this vision forward. 

My days as a volunteer emergency medical technician and my hunger to learn more while giving back led me to a career decision to continue in EMS. After graduating with a degree in history, I worked in an emergency room while becoming a paramedic for the City of New York. For all that I tried, many of my efforts still could not make a dent on the disease and suffering that was around me.

During this time, I pursued many other areas of medicine. I spent years involved in research for a federal grant, Emergency Medical Services for Children, to advance safe environments and emergency medical care for children across the United States. Eventually I worked for a large health system on Long Island in the capacities of Performance Improvement, Education, and Research. After serving in this environment, my family decided to move to North Carolina in 2005.

In 2007, I had the great fortune to renew my involvement with the AHA by teaching Emergency Cardiovascular Care programs and promote public access defibrillation (AED) and CPR education. In 2008, I started with the Mid-Atlantic AHA Community Strategies committee. The direction of this committee was to assist and direct best practices in heart and stroke health in North Carolina.

During this time I was leading an effort to assist in AEDs in Schools, trying to ensure that every school had an AED and could use them in an emergency. I was told that there was an AHA staffer who was pursuing a similar initiative. That was my introduction to Betsy Vetter and the team of advocates. Where my initiatives had stalled, the advocates flourished. Betsy, without hesitation, invited me to join the Advocacy locomotive.

Since coming on board in 2008, so much has been accomplished: ensuring all high schools have AEDs, updating the North Carolina Good Samaritan Laws, promoting Heartsaver Heroes, CPR as a high school graduation requirement, AEDs and Emergency Plans in state buildings, and most recently our success in Newborn Pulse Oximetry testing. For all the accomplishments, so much more work is to be done. I look forward to all that we can accomplish.

 With North Carolina as my family’s long term home, I want to do everything I can to encourage and assist our state to decrease preventable disease and increase the health of its citizens. With the AHA Advocacy team at my side, I have witnessed mountains moved.


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