Dr. Kennel Receiving Award at EMS World Expo
Dr. Kennel Accepting Award at EMS World Expo

A team of faculty and alumni from the Oregon Tech and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program was awarded the Best Educational Research of 2022 at an international EMS conference this month. The research focused on racial and ethnic disparities in the imagery used in emergency medical technician (EMT) textbooks.

The award was presented at the EMS World Expo, which EMS World described as “the world’s largest event dedicated to emergency medical providers.” It includes training, education, and live presentations.

The study titled “Black, Asian, and Female Individuals are More Likely to be Depicted as Patients in EMS textbooks while White Men are Presented as EMS Providers,” was conducted by Jamie Kennel, Ph.D., Chris Hamper, David Olvera-Godinez, Josh Michlitsch, Wilson Morris, and Kendall Womack. Kennel and Hamper teach in the EMS department, a partnership between Oregon Tech and OHSU. Olvera-Godinez, Michlitsch and Morris are graduates of the paramedic program, and Womack completed the EMT course sequence.

The research team compiled data on images presented in EMT textbooks and found Black, Asian, and female individuals were less likely to be depicted in the role of an EMS provider and more likely to be depicted as the patient in primary EMS training textbooks.

Dr. Kennel presenting research
Dr. Kennel presenting research

“This study investigates the diversity depicted in the imagery used in two primary national EMS textbooks as they represent additional barriers to attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce,” Kennel said. “Primary EMS textbooks help to set and reinforce expectations about the learner’s feeling of acceptance and belonging in the career. Actively presenting opportunities for diverse candidates to see themselves in the current workforce represents a critical step, among many, for the industry to improve its diversity. Additionally, these textbooks reinforce an image to current EMS students and future leaders of the field of who is accepted and who is not, serving to further solidify the predominantly white male representation as normal and a ‘good fit’ for the industry.”

Kennel published a study in the journal Medical Care in 2019 that identified racial minorities with traumatic injuries in Oregon receiving sub-standard care from EMS agencies. The study was co-sponsored by the Oregon Health Authority’s Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Systems Program and funded by the Oregon Office of Rural Health at OHSU.

Following Kennel’s study, Oregon Tech partnered with the AMR Foundation for Research and Education to address the need to improve diversity in the EMS workforce. The partnership funded six scholarships in the Oregon Tech/OHSU program, designed to support underrepresented communities and help fill the ongoing need for qualified professionals.

“The exploration of disparities in patient care and education highlight significant areas for improvement in our field. Further research is needed to identify root causes and develop mitigation strategies,” Hamper explained. “It may be tempting to see research like this and become defensive. However, to gain a seat at the health care table and become the altruistic team we believe ourselves to be, all EMS providers should confront the realities that our bias may be translating to unintentional actions that negatively affect the care for LGBTQ, women, Black, Indigenous, and people of color.”

Inspired by this research, EMS faculty submitted and were awarded an Open Educational Resources grant to work with the Oregon Tech library and build their own EMT lab manual to overcome the racial and ethnic disparities noted. The textbook will be finished in fall 2023 and provided free to all EMT programs that want to use it. To learn more about this textbook, contact Library Director Kristin Whitman at kristin.whitman@oit.edu.

To learn more about the EMT program at Oregon Tech/OHSU, visit www.oit.edu/academics/degrees/paramedic-program/emt-course.