International Air & Space Hall of Fame Induction 2020
Being inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame was the honor of a lifetime. Above is a video presentation given just before I was called onstage. Below is a transcript of the kind words spoken as I was introduced. It gives you information about my formative years as well as MedAire’s formative years, and the distance we’ve come so far.
Tireless. Beyond persistent. Her clarity regarding medical care in remote environments only accessed by air, land or sea, is absolute.
Her fans are legion. She’s driven, focused on how medical care prevention and treatment can be provided to everyone no matter their location.
No is not in her vocabulary. Her drive to succeed is infectious and her expertise is unquestioned.
She’s been there, she’s seen it, and is making a positive difference to the lives of others.
She is Joan Sullivan Garrett. MedAire.
Honesty, an enviable work ethic, responsible, success-driven, accountable, she credits her Irish immigrant heritage, her grandmother, and a task-driven childhood for her personal drive to achieve. Coming to United States in 1880s, her family worked themselves across the country, finally settling in California, new citizens in 1888.
And it was her work along side the guys on the family cattle ranch, tucked back in the remote rolling hills of northeastern San Luis Obispo County, her days began milking at at 5:30 a.m. On school bus by 7 for an hour’s ride. Weekends just saw more of the same.
Cattle roundups, branding, treating sick stock, and of course feeding — she did it all.
She wouldn’t go unnoticed. High school class president. Editor of the school paper. On the tennis team. Winning local speech competitions. Not unexpected, a special teacher embraced who she was and provided the positive encouragement necessary for her future. And Joan was off to San Francisco, quickly employed, beginning her nursing education, and starting her family. But nursing was a natural for her. She understood clearly what skilled nursing provides to medicine. Her grandmother had been a nurse for 36 years, and her mother was a degreed registered nurse. The bloodline was strong and natural.
Off next to Arizona with her two sons after earning her nursing prerequisites, she fast-tracked her nursing career. And after only three months as a registered nurse, she assumed the role of charge nurse. But taking on more became reality. Joan created and co-wrote the first college hospital-based Paramedic Training Program west of the Mississippi.What next? It was acceptance into the flight nurse training program. Her course was now set. Within a year she became Director of Flight Personnel, leading daily more than 140 skilled medical teammates. An inspired flight nurse, Joan observed firsthand the challenges of patient transports and altitude effects, and she was concerned by the ill-trained first responders. It was affecting patient outcomes. It simply couldn’t continue. Two years later, Joanie was ready, launching MedAire.
The vision? Quality healthcare for people in remote environments. Conceptually, she began providing environment-specific medical training, building medical resources, first aid kits, and comprehensive medical kits. Quality. Real-time access to medical expertise. Targeting the remote environments of business and commercial aviation and the super yacht market.
Changing her life, it was her firsthand experience during an emergency medical helicopter response, a rollover accident on a remote Arizona desert road. The first responder’s actions caused her to spend a young boy’s last moments with her. And she’d never forget it. MedAire was a must, not an option.
Joan self-funded MedAire after a local hospital system where she worked provided a $22,500 investment, office space, and support services. However, she remained a three-to-eleven p.m. shift flight nurse in the trauma emergency center to further the company and support her two boys. MedAire by day, flight nurse by night.
Cultural change was mandatory at all aviation levels. She had to become a recognized medical health and safety expert to a global audience, travel 280 days-plus a year, provide expertise to USA TODAY, the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, the BBC, the Discovery Channel as just a start. Awareness was crucial. Joan was busy designing the industry’s first FAA-compliant soft-sided, highly-organized, color-coded, and user-friendly aircraft first aid and medical kits. Her designs have since been standardized across the industry and adopted as OEM equipment by corporate aircraft manufacturers.
She redefined, developed, and delivered medical training manuals for both the inflight and maritime environments, created MedLink, a 24/7/365 hotline direct to highest levels of medical experts — telemedicine for not just aviation, but the first commercially viable telemedicine service in the world.
In the early ‘90s, Gulfstream was the first to include MedLink first aid training and kits as a value-added package with every aircraft sold, later adding enhanced medical kits and defibrillators. Others followed, and MedAire is the de facto SOP for the business aircraft industry. MedAire’s global footprint now included Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale, London, Frankfurt, Palma, Dubai, Beijing, Singapore, and Sydney. More than 150 airlines, 75% of the Fortune 100, and half the world’s super yachts are customers.
MedAire’s MedLink service takes an average of 16,000 calls monthly, thousands of first aid and medical kits a year, thousands of training classes, and has now touched more than million people. Joan has been or is director of the International National Aviation Womens Association, Vice Chair of Flight Safety Foundation’s Board of Governors, a member of the National Business Aviation Association’s Advisory Council, in 2011 Vice Chair, and 2013 their Chair. 2011 to 2015, National Business Aviation Association Board of Directors, ongoing active member of the Aerospace Medical Association and the International Society of Travel Medicine. Her honors include 1997 Flight Safety Foundation’s Business Aviation Meritorious Service Award, 2001 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Arizona, 2007 Spirit of Enterprise, Arizona State University, 2017 National Business Aviation Association Meritorious Award winner, 2017 International Aviation Womens Association Aviation Industry Woman of Excellence Award.
Saving lives has always been Joan’s and MedAire’s goal and the dedication of its employees and the all-in spirit of her two sons, Aaron and Josh, and her husband Frank, have ensured her focus was meaningfully sharp and fervently directed. For her unwavering and selfless devotion to the safety of others, her personal intensity and medical expertise aimed directly to educate the aviation industry’s medical preparedness initiatives, and ultimately ensure state-of-the art medical practices are optimized in the most remote locations, and her giving nature and willingness to spend the time for the sake of others, the San Diego Air & Space Museum takes great pride inducting Joan Sullivan Garrett into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame.
You know, as she comes close to the stage, I just feel healthier…please welcome Joan Sullivan Garrett!