Past Fellow Mentor Interview – Gina Riggs

Gina Riggs grew up in New Orleans, LA.  At age 19, while working as a Hertz Rental Car agent, Gina was asked by a friend, who was a firefighter & Emergency Medical Technician, to apply for a job opportunity at the local ambulance service.  During the interview, Gina was asked if she had any health care experience.  Her response, “I have a first aide badge from Girl Scouts.”  She was hired based on this experience alone and thus starting a 42-year-long career in Emergency Medical Services.

While on a personal trip to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Gina stopped by a local 911/ambulance service to connect with local EMTs.  During her visit, she learned of an EMS job opportunity and took a leap of faith.  She got the job and relocated to Oklahoma.  While working in Tahlequah, a fellow EMT, who taught EMS classes for Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, became ill.  Gina was asked to fill in for her co-worker and teach classes part-time.  This opportunity turned into full-time employment with Cherokee Nation where Gina continued to teach and helped set up an ambulance service and paramedic training program.  While working full-time for Cherokee Nation, Gina started teaching part-time for the local vo-tech, now known as CareerTech.  This relationship led to Gina becoming the Director of Emergency Medical Services and Paramedic programs at Kiamichi Technology Centers in southeast Oklahoma.  Not only does her program train EMTs and Paramedics across KTC’s ten campuses and 13,000 square mile district, but it also broadcasts classes via Zoom to seven other technology centers across the state of Oklahoma.

Gina is a member of the Oklahoma EMT Association, National EMT Association, National EMS Educators Association, Arkansas EMS Association, Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE) and Oklahoma Association for Career & Technical Education (OkACTE). She has held numerous offices within OkACTE and ACTE, including serving as President of both organizations. She is a tremendous advocate for CTE.

When asked what Gina finds personally rewarding in her career, she responded with, “Just knowing that we are graduating EMTs and Paramedics for the future inspires me and I truly enjoy working with the EMS staff at KTC.  Having the opportunity to travel around and advocate for CTE and meet new people across the country is also a highlight.  Networking has enabled me to grow professionally and in turn benefited the EMS program.”

If given the opportunity to change the way her career played out, Gina would take advantage of the education opportunities offered by the United States Army.  She is also interested in health care simulation.

Challenges in her field Gina shared include being bogged down by paperwork, students being pulled out class for various reasons and funding.