Melissa Meador earns award by TJ EMS Council
In April 2020, as the cases of COVID-19 began to rise in Central Virginia, Greene County faced an even greater problem—the University of Virginia severed its contact for ambulance service, leaving vulnerable those in Greene needing emergency transport to a hospital. Greene County Director of Emergency Services Melissa Meador took the problem and saw an opportunity to improve the quality of care for patients in Greene, but had only 155 days to stand up the county’s own emergency medical services (EMS) department to be ready to go by Oct. 14.
“We had to start a brand new EMS department in the middle of a pandemic,” Meador said. “We had been talking about moving away from a contractual service to have more ownership in it and it was something we had discussed for a couple of years by last April, but did we have a plan? No.”
Earlier this month Meador was named the Outstanding EMS Leadership Award recipient by the Thomas Jefferson EMS Council, which oversees services in the city of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison and Nelson.
“I had no idea,” Meador said. “I would say shocked is an understatement.”
Meador was nominated by Greene County EMS Operational Medical Director Dr. Debra Perina.
“I think she’s very deserving,” Dr. Perina said. “She’s done a tremendous job getting the Greene EMS service up in a short period of time, and actually putting together a really first-rate service. She totally deserves the recognition.”
Meador’s job encompasses much more than overseeing EMS, however.
“The day-today emergency management responsibilities didn’t stop,” she said. “The continued pandemic would be a lot of my time, but we made it happen by having a good team. We have a great, engaged Operational Medical Director in Dr. Perina. And a great engaged EMS supervisor in Aaron Anderegg. Most importantly, having an awesome staff—that has been the difference.”
Dr. Perina said she has seen other localities put together an EMS department, but never in the short amount of time that Greene County had to meet the deadline.
“I know of no other county that had a challenge as great as we had and to be successful—not simply successful, but standing up a really first-rate EMS department,” Dr. Perina said. “I mean it’s one, just even doing it, and then … recruiting a top-flight group of personnel, creating a space where they all could provide the best care possible and giving them the tools to do that. I think all of those reasons together are why she stands out among other like individuals.”
Anderegg agreed, saying it usually takes between a year and 18 months to plan and start an emergency department.
“We had 180 days,” he said. “I think it really comes down to her—her drive and trust in me and her ability to funnel the monies, the ideas and being open-minded to how we could accomplish the goals.”
Dr. Perina said there were numerous reasons she nominated Meador.
“She’s extremely competent and a very quick learner. She’s not afraid to take the bull by the horns when that has to happen,” said Dr. Perina. “Not a lot of people have that skill set. And it was really her fortitude and knowledge base and willingness to tackle what was a seemingly insurmountable situation and make it happen.”
The Greene County Board of Supervisors needed to approve the creation of the new EMS department, but also allocate funding for its use. Supervisors approved using federal funds to build a new station that is under construction now.
In the short time from the board’s OK to the start of the service, Meador hired Anderegg and he started in August 2020. From there, the pair hired full- and part-time staff to run the two ambulances 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We are limited in what we can do right now, but we are having people step up left and right, asking can I do this? Can I help with this? I mean it’s a weekly thing,” Meador said. “So, we are delegating some of those responsibilities and that has been a big help as well.”
Meador has worked in public safety since 1996, including 911, emergency management and as a volunteer for fire and rescue.
“My knowledge base was pretty solid coming into last year with public safety, so I was comfortable there,” she said. “And then you just surround yourself with good, intelligent people and it’s a recipe for success.”
Anderegg said Meador has a way of balancing all the things that are coming at her, especially with the pandemic ongoing.
“Being an emergency services director, she’s got fire departments, she’s got the county, she’s got all the stuff in the midst of trying to start an EMS system,” he said. “Being able to balance all of that, through those hard times, it’s a thing of beauty to watch and I’m happy that I’ve been a part of it with her help.”
Anderegg said both he and Meador—and the entire EMS team—put the safety of the community at the forefront daily.
Monroe Supervisor Steve Bowman told the board at a recent board meeting that he believes the community has more trust in the department than previously.
“I think that’s very true,” Meador said. “I’m not saying everything is perfect and there’s always room for improvement but we hit those head on and address them as quickly as we can. I am hopeful the community is seeing a difference in their service, a difference in our providers. We all strive to get better every day.”
Dr. Perina said she believes the community is fortunate to have the current EMS team in the county—from the top down—and Meador said she agrees.
“The community should know they can count on us, that when they call us we will be there,” Meador said. “We are a professional and knowledgeable unit. We are going to continue to grow and we need that community support to do that. We are fortunate that we have a pro-public safety Board of Supervisors, and I just appreciate them immensely. They are very supportive of this department. And without them, we couldn’t have done this.”
Greene County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Martin wrote a letter in support of the nomination of Meador for the award.
“I couldn’t be happier that Ms. Meador’s leadership has been recognized by the Thomas Jefferson Emergency Medical Services Council,” Martin said. “This award is well-deserved and suitable testament to the superior services that Ms. Meador has been providing to Greene County for many years now.”
Dr. Perina said there’s another thing that makes Meador a great leader—she inspires others.
“She supports them in a manner that brings the best out of them,” she said.