ROCKINGHAM – If Guilford County hadn’t borrowed
the training curriculum from neighboring Forsyth and
then doubled up on the frequency of its classes, Tommy
Cook would have been in the first graduating class of
mobile intensive care techs (now paramedics) in North
Instead, he graduated with the second class and is now,
40 years later, one of only two men in those first two
groups still active in the profession.
Aside from his family, Cook loves nothing more than
Emergency Medical Services (EMS), the career he essentially
fell into but quickly came to love. He had always wanted
a job in public service, but EMS work wasn’t even
on his original list of job possibilities.
“I wanted to do something for the public sector,” says
Cook, who was recently named director of the Southern
Region of FirstHealth Regional EMS (Richmond County,
N.C., and Chesterfield County, S.C.) “I wanted
to do something that I felt was giving back.”
“Giving back” is exactly what Cook does.
He had originally hoped to accomplish his professional
goal by joining the Highway Patrol. When he missed the
height requirement of the time by 2 inches, he looked
into job possibilities with fire and police departments,
but encountered the same roadblock.
When a friend suggested ambulance/rescue work, Cook
expected the same kind of rejection. He didn’t,
however, and instead found a life’s work that fulfilled
his community service goal while earning him the respect
of his colleagues.
“I have known Mr. Cook for well over 10 years
since I became FirstHealth’s EMS medical director,” says
Matthew Harmody, M.D., of Sandhills Emergency Physicians. “I
have learned a tremendous amount about EMS from him.
He is well-known across the local and state EMS community
for his experience, work ethic and dedication, and is
well-deserving of his new role.”
EMS connection in the mid-Carolinas began with Richmond
County’s program, and he served this community
very ably for a number of years,” says John Jackson,
president of FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital. “I
think he’s happy to be back with us, and I know
we are happy to have him.”
Cook received his EMT-paramedic certificate from Forsyth
Technical Community College in 1975 and was later certified
by the Emergency Medical Services Management Institute
through the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
In 2005, he earned his associate degree in Emergency
Medical Science and along with it the Excellence in EMS
award from Montgomery Community College.
Nationally certified as an EMT-paramedic in 2000, Cook
received the Jim Finnison Award for Outstanding Service
to EMS in North Carolina from the N.C. Association of
EMTs in 1991 and served several terms on the North Carolina
Emergency Response Commission following his initial appointment
by then-Gov. Michael Easley.
He has held a variety of positions with FirstHealth
Regional EMS since moving to Richmond County in 1997
to become EMS director and was serving as interim director
of FirstHealth’s Southern EMS Region when he received
the permanent appointment in November.
Cook’s wife, Gayle is a registered nurse who now
works as a claims analyst with FirstHealth’s Risk
Management department. The two met when he was working
on an ambulance and she was an emergency room nurse at
Forsyth Memorial Hospital. Later a mobile intensive care
nurse, Gayle Cook was one of the first female members
of the Forsyth County Rescue Squad.
The Cooks’ daughter, McKenzie, also has an EMS
connection as children’s program manager for the
North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services.
According to Brian Canfield, chief operating officer
of FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, whose responsibilities
include EMS oversight, Cook has achieved his public service
“We are all very excited that Tommy Cook has accepted
the position of FirstHealth’s Southern Regional
EMS director,” Canfield says. “He possesses
all the skills necessary to be successful in this leadership
position, and he has a strong presence within the community.
What most impresses me about Tommy is that he leads by
example and lives our FirstHealth mission and core purpose – ‘to
care for people.’”