Volunteer Spotlight: Sean Graham

Sean Graham operates on the front-lines of emergency response. He rescues critical patients via helicopter, and gets them the care they need ASAP. But by working with Humanity Road, he discovered a whole new way to save lives…


Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.

My pleasure.

First, tell us about yourself, and what you do day-to-day at HR.

I am a full-time flight paramedic, living and working in the Phoenix, Arizona area. I got started in Emergency Services at the age of 16, as a volunteer EMT Basic in northern New Jersey. After high school, I attended the paramedic program at SUNY Rockland University in New York, and then began working as a paramedic in a couple of busy 911 systems around NJ. In 2012, I made my way out to Arizona, then began flying in 2015.

I am nearing the end of my 10-week internship, and have been part of a variety of projects. I’ve mainly focused on helping our partners – both government and NGO – with their data-mining efforts. I have also had the wonderful opportunity to get some exposure to the internal drill team which has been invaluable in learning the anatomy of an exercise/drill.

What does a flight paramedic do?

Sure. So, a flight paramedic typically is trained to a critical-care level, meaning they’re even better-trained than an ambulance paramedic. This may include learning about more types of drugs, additional skills/tools, and a more in-depth knowledge of medicine and human physiology. This allows us (typically partnered with a nurse) to take care of some critically ill and injured patients. We work in both fixed-wing (airplanes) and rotor (helicopter) platforms.

Currently, my full time position is on a helicopter. We perform inter-facility transports, where we bring a patient from a lower-level hospital to a higher-level medical center for specialized treatment. We also perform scene flights, where we go to the scene of an accident or injury to quickly transport the patient to a trauma center. In addition to our increased medical capabilities, we can also get patients to definitive care faster than our ground counterparts. This comes in handy with time sensitive emergencies like stroke, heart attack and trauma.

Sounds like an intense, but rewarding, career.

It is. The commonality between the work that I have been doing for the past 12 years and the work I want to get involved with, is helping people. I feel like I am doing the same exact job, just the scope and the way in which we go about it changes.

So, how did you get started with Humanity Road?

I love my job, but I have been looking for something different for some time now. I had decided earlier this year that I wanted to pursue a career in Emergency Management. Through networking, I found Humanity Road, and got started here as an intern.

What’s your next step after this internship is over?

Right now, I am looking for a full-time entry-level position with an Emergency Management office (city, county or state) to continue growing the skills I’ve learned with Humanity Road. I am also open to the idea of doing more humanitarian and disaster response work with NGOs.

What keeps you motivated? What’s your humanitarian philosophy?

That is a good question. I feel that the greatest thing that one can do is save another’s life. This doesn’t need to be literally, where someone goes out and performs CPR and gets someone’s heart started again. Although doing that is fantastic. It comes down to helping those in the worst of times, and getting them to a place where they feel in control again. This could be donating blood and having it get to someone in need of it. It could be donating clothes to a shelter. It could be working as a firefighter. It could be feeding the homeless. The list could go on forever. I see lives being saved by the amazing volunteers here at Humanity Road. It is incredible what can be accomplished when a group of people with that same philosophy comes together. Imagine now if the entire world did their part to ensure those in need are taken care of in their darkest hour. That would be incredible.

Anything else you’d like to mention about your work with HR that we haven’t already covered?

I know I just mentioned it briefly, but I do want to say how impressed I am with the volunteers and leadership here at Humanity Road. Everyone plays such a critical role in this organization’s operational profile. I was blown away by how skilled and committed everyone at HR is. There is real passion behind this organization, and that is why things get done.

I think it’s amazing that when a disaster strikes, you can have so many individuals get together and effectively work independently from all over the world, yet it seems as if everyone was working in an office together. Everything comes together seamlessly. There is no visible chaos when everyone is working. This is a testament to everyone’s abilities. I plan to stay on as a volunteer after my internship is completed, and hope to become half as skillful as the rest of the crowd here at HR.

What would you say to anyone who’s considering volunteering for HR?

Do it! If you feel like you don’t have the skills to do this type of work, they will teach you. If you are a little rusty on tech and feel like you would be a hindrance rather than a help, they will teach you. If you have no idea how to use social media and don’t even know what a “Tweet” is, they will teach you. Every human on this planet could serve a purpose with this organization. They really do an amazing job of empowering each individual and giving them the tools they need to succeed. In addition, as a volunteer, you will directly touch lives in a unique way. Getting to know more about HR, and trying your hand as a volunteer, is well worth your time.

Alright, unless you have anything else to add, that should be all.

No, those were great questions, Joshua. To piggyback off what I just said about the volunteers, I want to thank you tremendously for the work you do and the time you put in. I know you don’t need to do any of this and yet you do. That means a lot, and I want to just let you know how much I appreciate it. Thanks so much.

You’re welcome. I pop in and volunteer whenever my conscience strikes me, as probably a lot of people do. You’re probably more dedicated than I, and I wish you the best in your pursuit of an emergency-response career.

Thanks so much. Take care.

Farewell, Mr. Graham, and thanks for the interview!

My pleasure.


Even an experienced lifesaving medical professional can find new purpose with Humanity Road. If Sean Graham can, you can too!

Until next time, and our next volunteer’s story!