Thomas “Buddy” Williams served as interim director of FirstHealth EMS-Richmond for six months before being named to the permanent position in September. Williams has more than 20 years of experience in EMS work.
ROCKINGHAM – Thomas “Buddy” Williams had officially been in his new job – as director of FirstHealth EMS-Richmond – for exactly six days when a multi-casualty bus accident put his more than two decades of professional experience to the test.
It wasn’t that he felt unprepared to respond on that terrible day, but that he was prepared to respond in a different way than was required of him.
When Williams arrived at the scene of the Sept. 17 tragedy, he launched into his familiar paramedic mode, grabbing a pair of gloves and pitching in to assist the injured. He soon found that others had already, and very capably, assumed that role, leaving the “big picture” role of supervision and support to him.
“The reason I got into EMS was to take care of people,” he says. “That was put on the back burner. I took more of a supportive role.”
Williams was interim director of FirstHealth’s EMS service for six months before he took the director’s job in early September. A graduate of Richmond Community College, he had worked with FirstHealth and Richmond EMS for more than 20 years in various roles of increasing responsibility.
While serving as interim director, he also continued to serve as a Richmond EMS supervisor, a position he had held since July 2013.
“Buddy Williams has been a valuable and respected member of our EMS program here in Richmond County for many years,” says John Jackson, president of FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital. “Because he has worked with the local EMS program from the time it was a Richmond County department and then a service of Richmond Memorial Hospital and, with the hospital’s acquisition by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, an important part of the FirstHealth organization, he brings a unique sense of history, service and community involvement to his job.”
Williams was a sheet metal mechanic until his employer offered a CPR class that opened up a new and very different interest for him. He took, at his own expense, an EMT-Basic course at Richmond Community College and was hooked.
“I was actually pretty good at it,” he says, “and decided to try to make it a career.”
As director of FirstHealth EMS-Richmond, Williams heads a program that serves more than 46,000 people in a county comprising the heavily populated towns of Rockingham and Hamlet as well as remote rural communities and farmlands. Its four ambulances respond to an average of 650-plus calls each month from the main station on the Richmond Memorial Hospital campus and a satellite base in Ellerbe.
From the basic rescue services offered when Williams entered the profession two decades ago, FirstHealth Richmond-EMS has joined other FirstHealth programs in providing services that include the 12-lead EKG STEMI protocol that allows on-site paramedics to communicate remotely with cardiologists and Emergency Department physicians to ensure that heart attack patients get the best and timeliest care possible.
At times, the work can be just as dramatic but not nearly so high-tech, like the day that a series of calls – one after another – ranged from delivering a baby to caring for an ailing 104-year-old.
A native of Richmond County, where his parents still reside, Williams credits Rhonda, his wife of 30 years and a certified nursing assistant in Richmond Memorial’s Intensive Care Unit, for helping introduce him to health care. A devout Christian and a licensed minister in the Church of God of Prophecy, Williams stepped away from lifesaving for soul-saving back in 2009 to serve as pastor of a small church in Rocky Mount.
His passion for EMS brought him home after a year.
“God showed me there is more than one way to minister,” says Williams. “I have openly used EMS to pacify the servant’s heart that I have.”