17 graduate paramedics class

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

LAWRENCEVILLE -- After 986 hours of training, 17 Gwinnett County firefighters officially became paramedics Friday afternoon.

More than a year's worth of off-duty time spent in classrooms, hospitals and ambulances now puts these graduates out in the field, working to help provide advanced emergency medical care to the residents of the county.

The new grads alternately laughed and groaned every time a speaker made a reference to their grueling training at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center on Friday, but Assistant Chief David Dusik had a message for them.

"The lives that you impact will make every second worth it," he said in his address to the new graduates.

This class gives Gwinnett emergency services 47 graduates this year (its most ever) and a total of 223 paramedics throughout the county.

Its 88 percent first-try pass rate is 16 percent higher than the national average for paramedic testing, fire spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge said.

"It's amazing, especially when the need is so great (because of a rapidly growing population)," Gwinnett County Fire Chief Bill Myers said.

Among the 17 honorees Friday, two were given special honors.

Lt. Chase Robinson was given the academic award ("He made every test look easy," one instructor said), while Lt. Cevan Hokett was given the Star of Life Award, voted among his peers as the new recruit that most embodied the definition of emergency medical services.

All graduates, though, will now begin the next stage of their careers.

"The citizens of Gwinnett celebrate with all of y'all tonight," County Administrator Glenn Stephens said.