For forty-three years, Muscatine firefighter, emergency medical technician (EMT), and paramedic Tom Summitt has dedicated his career to keeping his hometown safe. During that time, Summitt helped grow the Muscatine Fire Department’s (MFD’s) emergency medical services (EMS) division. Summitt assisted the EMS program as it got off the ground when the MFD first started using its own ambulances. Summitt also worked to get the community behind the MFD’s EMS division, creating the annual EMS Health and Safety Day, a hugely popular event now in its twenty-ninth year. Through it all, Summitt has always retained his love of serving others, and his commitment to keep the community he loves safe.
As a young adult, Summitt never planned to become an EMT. Instead, he wanted to work as a mortician. As surprising as it may sound, Summitt recalls that in the past, many funeral homes also operated ambulance services. While working for a local funeral home, Summitt became intrigued with the EMS side of the business, and eventually shifted his focus to becoming an EMT himself. He found he enjoyed helping others and wanted to work in a profession where he could do that every day. From there, he pursued both EMT and paramedic certification, solidifying his new career path.
In his many years with the MFD, Summitt’s desire to help people in his community has remained strong. He reports that even after forty-three years, he still considers, “being able to help someone, being able to make a difference, and saving lives,” the best part of his work. In particular, Summitt realizes the many surprising cases he got to assist with, including delivering five babies at different points in his career.
Though working in EMS presents many challenges, Summitt faces them with the same determination he did when he first started with the MFD. Though many aspects of the job have changed over time, Summitt works hard to stay up to date on EMS methods and technologies and takes pride in working for one of the most advanced EMS services in the region. “We’re able to do more now than ever before. . . We have one of the most aggressive medical directors, and we’re on the cutting edge of technology. . .. We’re one of the most advanced services, and we strive to get the best outcomes every time,” he shared.
At the heart of Summitt’s work lies his love for Muscatine. As a lifelong resident, Summitt values the tight-knit small town feel Muscatine has, while still providing many opportunities for residents. “There’s a lot to offer here, [but] it’s small enough to be friendly to everyone and to care,” he said.
In the years to come, Summitt looks forward to continuing to serve Muscatine, and to work alongside his three sons, who followed in his footsteps to become local EMTs. As Summitt continues saving lives with the MFD, Muscatine will continue to benefit from his hard work, dedication, and commitment. These traits truly make Summitt a Pearl of Muscatine.