Dr. Timothy Chizmar, an emergency room physician with University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, medical director for Harford County EMS and an active member of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, has been named assistant state EMS medical director for the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, or MIEMSS.
The appointment puts Chizmar in line to succeed the current state EMS medical director when he retires this fall.
“One of my greatest passions is EMS and trying to advance what EMS is able to do,” Chizmar, 37, of Bel Air, said Thursday.
Chizmar’s first day with the Baltimore-based MIEMSS was Monday, and his appointment was announced Wednesday. He was hired following a statewide and national search.
The assistant medical director position was created to ensure “continuity of leadership,” Dr. Richard Alcorta, the state EMS medical director, said Wednesday.
Chizmar is slated to take over as EMS medical director after Alcorta retires Oct. 31.
“He’s truly a superb physician, and I feel very comfortable that he’s going to fill my shoes and lead us into the next couple of decades,” said Alcorta, who has been with MIEMSS since 1992.
Chizmar will work at MIEMSS on a part-time basis, being paid at an hourly rate, until he takes over as state EMS medical director in November. He will then work full time and receive an annual salary, according to Alcorta, who said he could not provide salary information at this time.
Chizmar is still working full time with Upper Chesapeake Health, but he will work part time in the hospital’s emergency department starting in November, when he goes to full-time work with MIEMSS, Christina Cottrell, a spokesperson for UCH, wrote in an email Wednesday.
Chizmar said he, like other UCH emergency room physicians, splits his time between Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air and Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace.
He will also stay on as EMS medical director for Harford County until a replacement is hired, Cindy Mumby, spokesperson for the county government, said Wednesday.
He took on the role of medical director in April of 2017 as the administration of County Executive Barry Glassman put a county-run EMS system in place. The system, which includes two “surge” ambulances staffed by paid county paramedics, went into effect in January. A five-person EMS standards board was also formed to help oversee the transition to a paid ambulance service — that service currently augments the 12 privately-run volunteer fire and EMS companies that provide Harford’s firefighting and EMS coverage.
The county’s Board of Estimates approved a one-year, $30,000 contract with Chizmar last June. The contract with Chizmar was renewed through June 30, 2019. A separate contract would be needed for the next medical director, according to Mumby.
“The county executive thanks [Chizmar] for his service, particularly with the EMS standards advisory board and the rollout of the initial county ambulance service, and the county executive wishes him well,” Mumby said.
Alcorta will take on a mentoring role as Chizmar learns the “responsibilities and functions” of the state director’s position. Those duties will then be delegated to Chizmar over time, Alcorta said.
Chizmar said he must meet with the county’s director of emergency services and president of the Harford County Volunteer Fire & EMS Association to set up a transition plan for a new county EMS medical director. He said he would like to have a setup similar to what he has with Alcorta at the state level, where Chizmar would mentor an assistant county medical director “so there’s a smooth transition and not an abrupt one.”
“Dr. Alcorta has been a great mentor to me, and I admire what he’s been able to do over the course of his tenure,” Chizmar said.
‘Leadership and coordination’
The state EMS medical director provides “leadership and coordination for State EMS medical programs, protocols, and quality assurance,” serves as a liaison with operators of regional EMS programs and medical facilities and promotes “creative, responsive, and scientifically sound programs for the delivery of emergency medical care to all citizens,” according to the MIEMSS website.
The organization is an independent state agency that coordinates all aspects of EMS and trauma services across the state, according to the news release announcing Chizmar’s hiring.
The executive director of MIEMSS reports to the state’s 11-member EMS Board, the members of which are appointed by the governor. The state medical EMS director reports to the executive director, according to Alcorta.
The EMS Board has “rule and regulatory authority,” establishing and updating protocols that EMS providers across Maryland, whether they are paid, volunteer or work for a commercial ambulance service, must follow. The board also designates trauma center and specialty centers to serve patients experiencing emergencies such as strokes or cardiac issues, according to Alcorta.
The board ensures those designated facilities meet a minimum standard for patient care, according to Alcorta. He cited an organizational mantra of “right care at the right time, at the right place.”
The state’s EMS Board works with the 31-member Statewide EMS Advisory Council, which is composed of civilians and people who work at all levels of the medical system, including fire and EMS personnel, physicians, nurses, hospital administrators, employee union leaders and health and transportation department officials.
The council serves as a “broad-based, consensus-building advisory committee for the EMS board,” Alcorta said.
All parties are working to maintain Maryland’s integrated EMS and health care system that has become a national and international model, according to Alcorta and James Brown, director of educational support services for MIEMSS.
“We have visitors come from all over the world to see how we do what we do and do it well,” Alcorta said.
The ideal candidate
Chizmar was the ideal candidate for the position because of his experience as an emergency room physician — trained in Maryland — his work as a volunteer EMS provider in Bel Air, as well as holding “key positions” in MIEMSS, according to Alcorta.
Those positions include medical director for MIEMSS Region III, which covers the largest portion of the state in terms of population — Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Harford County, Carroll County, Howard County, Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis — as well as serving on the agency’s committee to review EMS protocols, being an active member of the Region III council and chairing that council’s medical directors subcommittee, Alcorta said.
Chizmar grew up in Bel Air and is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He completed his residency training at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, plus he has earned board certification in emergency medicine and a sub-specialty certification in emergency medical services. The Maryland American College of Emergency Physicians named Chizmar the EMS Physician of the Year for 2015, according to the MIEMSS news release.
He is married with two children and plans to remain in Harford County, although his new job is based in Baltimore. He also plans to stay involved with the Bel Air fire company; he has been a member for 12 years, on the EMS side only. His father, Paul Chizmar, is a long-serving member, working on the fire and EMS side, Chizmar said.
Alcorta cited Chizmar’s board certifications as another factor in his hiring, as well as his knowledge of how EMS protocols are developed. Those protocols, which apply to more than 20,000 EMS providers across the state, are updated each year based on changes to EMS practices — MIEMSS must ensure providers are trained and educated annually in those protocols so they provide the same level of care across Maryland.
“[Chizmar] has the contacts and professional reputation within the system as a very knowledgeable and competent emergency medicine and emergency medical services medical director,” Alcorta said. “He has intimate knowledge of how Maryland’s EMS and regional health care delivery systems operate.”
Chizmar said the “most exciting part” of his work is “watching EMS take on new roles and responsibilities and becoming an integral health care partner.”
EMS providers are taking on new duties such as working with home health-care nurses, social workers and health department staff to visit people in their homes to encourage wellness and reduce to need to call 911 — the visitors do blood-pressure checks, make sure patients have the proper medications and identify hazards that could cause a fall, Chizmar said.
Evolving technology means EMS workers can provide treatments in the ambulance that have traditionally been done at hospitals. They must also do “a lot more critical thinking and decision making” when deciding where to take a patient as facilities become more specialized related to stroke, cardiac or trauma care, Chizmar said.
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“I think EMS is a growing sub-specialty in the house of medicine, and I think it has a lot of potential,” he said.