Avocation vs. Vocation

Knox T. Walk’s, current Director of Emergency Preparedness for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) first call almost led him to falling out of a moving ambulance when he first started his journey to saving and educating lives in 1977. The eager, young man started as a volunteer member of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s (IUP) ski patrol, but landed a jumpstart at Citizens Ambulance with no experience and just completing EMT training. Former #SavvikSays feature, Kevin L. Parrish was operating a Citizen’s ambulance as sirens echoed throughout Homer City, Pa. for a patient seizure. Knox was riding as a 3rd person while Parrish quickly came to a stop.  Eager to jump into action, Knox stood up and began to reach for the side door when Parrish decided to parallel parked the Dodge ambulance on the scene. As Parrish backup the ambulance, Walk reached for the doors that became unlatched and abruptly swung out. Realizing Knox was being ejected by the vehicle, Parrish quickly grabbed his belt to hoist him back to safety. It was a lifelong friendship ignited by the passion and eagerness for the EMS career.

Knox says, “Though his choice of words may have been too vulgar once pulling me back in by the belt strap of my pants, he told me to sit down, and let me park! Knox continues, “Pro Tip, always make sure the ambulance is parked before springing to action.”

Knox’s wealth of knowledge and guidance has empowered public safety professionals to land his/her career dreams or soar to new heights of success by developing and implementing emergency management and business continuity initiatives in the public safety industry. In his lifetime thus far, Knox has been an EMS Coordinator for Allegheny County, Director of the Public Safety Institute of Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), EMS Division Chief of Allegheny County, and presently, Emergency Preparedness Director of UPMC. His undying commitment for the public safety realm is laid by the foundations of his passion and calling to the job. Knox says,

 

There has been a shift from EMS as an avocation to vocation in the industry nowadays. EMS is a calling, and if you don’t have that calling, you can’t provide the level of care and comfort that a patient ultimately requires. EMS is an adventure, and if you don’t enjoy the adventure, then it’s work and not the best for each patient. You will have a direct impact on people’s lives through your passion for the job. I’ve done well with the people I work with, because we love the profession.

 

While expanding to other horizons in the profession, Knox always provided teaching moments in each profession title. He witnessed the EMS, fire and rescue programs grow from one thousand students to twenty thousand in Western Pennsylvania with the help of colleagues. He has had the privilege of teaching as an adjunct Instructor at three institutions: Texas A&M University, Center for Emergency Medicine of Western Pa. and University of Pittsburgh.

In 1991, Knox’s father was golf at a nearby course. During the tense moment of determination to land the ball in the second hole, an unsettling, act of force hit his father’s chest. Knox’s father fell to the ground in cardiac arrest, and EMS professionals quickly arrived on scene. Through bystander CPR, the arrival and advanced life support treatment, Knox’s father lived another 4 years.  Knox realized something later that day in 1991, that he directly or indirectly, taught all the men who save his dad.. Knox says, “As my father was resuscitated that morning, I realized the education I provided over the years helped him survive that day.” Knox’s passion for the public safety industry made a difference in saving his father’s life as well as empowering the impact of education to each student during his career.

There will be many moments that will create an impact for positive change as an EMS and public safety professional within one’s lifetime of career opportunities. Whether it is learning first-hand the laws of physics while driving to one’s very first call with a coworker who will become a best friend for life, or gifting thousands of aspiring public safety professionals teaching moments and advice throughout Pennsylvania. Each experience has a story to tell and a teaching moment to go along with it. Either personal or professional, the unforeseen and deliberate moments of impact always make a difference for good in the public safety realm as long as the passion is in the heart. Knox T. Walk, undeniably possesses the ability to make a difference throughout his colorful career in the public safety industry.

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