Alex Trembley, BS, MPA, NR-P, undertook important and courageous work to quantify and better understand implicit bias in EMS workers with a goal of improving the overall health of the community. For his work and vision in this, Alex is a recipient of 2020 EMS 10 Innovation Award.
Trembley got into EMS by accident. He ended up being hooked. With both parents being in healthcare, he was not surprised by this. He then started working at a hospital a week after his 19th birthday. In 2014, Trembley was moved to a full-time data analyst role. During this time, he received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin. In 2016, Alex was promoted to quality supervisor and oversees healthcare outcome disparities. He has also completed his master’s degree in Public Administration with an Emphasis in Health and Emergency Policy. This ultimately led him to his research project.
Trembley believes that through better describing the issue with the use of data, our industry can ideate on how to foster a more inclusive environment and be able to represent the community we serve. It also helps existing providers improve their individual practice to better care for all those in the community they serve. This topic can be threatening for some people, as these inquiries can challenge strongly held or loaded beliefs. He endured personal attacks and threats because of his work in this area. Despite this, he was able to complete the study and identify areas for improvement and establish a baseline.
This study is important as we continue to evolve EMS to better meet social determinants of health and better serve our communities. Trembley’s study is titled “Do EMS Workers Have Implicit Bias?”. The inspiration for this study came when he noticed that research indicates communities of color experience adverse health outcomes in comparison to communities which are predominately not of color.
To further pursue this research project, Trembley was awarded the 2020 Civil Liberties/Faculty Collaborative Research Grant from the University of Wisconsin which provided a $3,000 stipend and $500 for needed supplies. His research project at the university was completed under the guidance of Samantha Larson, an assistant professor in the public administration department. This research project included the questions of: To what extent do emergency healthcare workers exhibit racial implicit bias? Is implicit bias of emergency healthcare workers more prevalent than the general public? Does implicit bias of emergency healthcare workers vary based on demographic factors?
Not only does Trembley’s immersion in data serve as inspiration for this research project, but he also comes from a multi-cultural family. His wife is a Station 51 graduate, an EMS training program for underserved communities in Minnesota, and had a very different journey though EMS. He does notice that everyone must take a different path based on where they come from, but that should not exclude people from combatting implicit bias.
There has never been a study on implicit bias in EMS. There have only been a few studies in public safety, but with only 90 participants. After many tries, Trembley received a grant from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. When he went live with this research i, he received 1,200 responses in just a few weeks. This happened during the time of George Floyd death. This was the largest bias study by a single set of researchers in history.
It is important to note that the rate of skin tone bias in EMS workers is two times higher than the bias in the general population . We must be able to identify and overcome dogmatic bias in healthcare. This is the first step on a long road to change. In August, Trembley started a Doctoral Program in Public Administration at Valdosta State University.
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