The air medical community once again gathered for the annual Air Medical Transport Conference (AMTC) in Tampa, Florida.
The exhibit hall was open from Oct. 24 to 26 for attendees to meet with vendors and view their offerings. Multiple education sessions were held both during and for three days before the main event.
Over the past several years, a variety of incidents have caused strife for the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS), the organizers of AMTC. From political unrest in the host city to global pandemic pauses, the yearly meeting has faced almost insurmountable hurdles. However, like the professionals they represent, AAMS has faced the challenges and overcome them to provide a world-class function — and this year was no exception.
In late September, Hurricane Ian formed in the Atlantic Ocean before moving across the Caribbean and making landfall on the west coast of Florida as a record-setting Category 4 storm less than a month before AMTC22.
Fortunately, the residents of the Tampa area were spared from the catastrophic impact seen elsewhere in the Sunshine State. With heavy hearts for those lost in the weeks prior, the convention continued as planned, with tributes throughout the week celebrating the bravery of the air medical community that was involved in the lifesaving efforts throughout the tragedy.
A sold-out 44,000-square-foot (4,090-square-meter) show hall at the waterfront Tampa Convention Center welcomed 122 exhibitors demonstrating all manner of products and services.
In addition to numerous healthcare-specific items on display, 10 helicopters from Airbus, Bell, and Leonardo were spread about for the more than 1,500 showgoers to experience firsthand some of the newest and most popular models outfitted in modern medical configurations. Ground-based care and transportation methods were also available for viewing.
AAMS interim president and CEO Kolby Kolbet kicked the event by welcoming the visiting medical personnel and introducing the keynote speakers. First up was Rebekah Gregory, a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013.
Positioned at the finish line, Gregory took the brunt of one of the explosions, effectively shielding her five-year-old son and saving his life. She was critically injured and spent a week in a coma, prior to having her left leg amputated.
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Her tale is one of overcoming her experience and striving to help others through her charitable organization, Rebekah’s Angels. Another person present at that same Boston Marathon was the next speaker, Dr. Bryan Canterbury.
Canterbury was assigned to the medical tent at the finish line when the devices exploded, and rushed to the scene to provide emergency trauma care to the dozens of victims. He spoke about overcoming the inevitable post-traumatic stress disorder related to such an occurrence and the importance of seeking help, no matter how strong one thinks they are.
During the opening session, several air medical operators were recognized for specific acts of heroism along with decades of service to their communities. Capping off the awards was the Program of the Year recipient, Avera Careflight with bases across South Dakota and providing coverage to the Minnesota, Nebraska, and North Dakota region.
Avera began operation in 1986 with one aircraft and has grown to four locations with dedicated fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and ground services.
The educational opportunities for medical personnel were numerous. The sessions were not only valuable from an experience standpoint, but offered continuing education (CE) credits in a variety of areas.
From interactive clinical labs to communications methods to pilot and crew safety practices, a wide spectrum of topics was taught. Attendees were impressed by the sheer number of CE credit options, with several commenting that the clinical contest was the best they had seen in years.
Many of the protocols that were discussed could be seen in action throughout the week at what has become one of the most popular and entertaining events of the convention, the Sim Cup.
This is a critical care skills and simulation contest utilizing realistic scenarios to challenge two-person teams of medical professionals working on lifelike simulation equipment. Audience members watched multiple rounds of competition, and witnessed Canadian-based STARS from Saskatchewan taking home the trophy for 2022.
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Continuing the theme of recognizing the efforts and accomplishments of individuals and medical programs, helicopter manufacturers imparted accolades and celebrated purchases and deliveries during several booth events.
This included Airbus Helicopters’ presentation to Colorado-based Flight for Life for being the very first air medical operator in the U.S. 50 years ago.
Bell paired with representatives from Nebraska’s Regional West Medical Center’s Air Link to show the recently delivered 407GXi, while Leonardo and Life Link III personnel unveiled the soon-to-be-operational AW169, which was completed by Metro Aviation.
AAMS and the rest of the air medical community will meet again for AMTC23 in Columbus, Ohio, from Oct. 23 to 25, 2023.