In 2020, voters selected Tom Ritter as the inaugural winner for the Community Member of the Year Award for his exceptional dedication to Macon County during his career. Ritter passed away in 2021 and to honor his life and legacy, The Southern Scoop News has officially renamed this recognition in his memory.
Southern Scoop Readers voted for their favorite businesses, organizations, and services for the annual Reader’s Choice Awards earlier this year — and with an overwhelming number of nominations, Macon County’s Joey Gibson was voted the 2021 Tom Ritter Community Member of the Year Award.
Gibson has worked for Macon County Emergency Services for the last 20 years as a full-time employee, working part-time for the three year’s prior to that. He also worked part time for Angel Medical Center for 19 years prior to the birth of his son — and recently started working again as needed in the emergency room.
Aside from working as a paramedic for Macon County, Gibson is responsible for leading the charge of the development of Macon County’s Community Paramedic Program — for which he served es as the coordinator.
The county’s CCP program was started in the Spring of 2015 and on average serves 20-30 patients who are dealing with chronic illnesses. Paramedics provide home care for patients, can draw blood, check blood pressure, and other care options for patients in order to prevent them from needing to visit the hospital. The program works with patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital to reduce the number of re-admitted patients within a 30-day period.
Gibson said the CPP Program is his proudest accomplishment.
“Getting to lead the community care program has definitely been the highlight. Getting to work alongside some of the best paramedics, helping the community become healthier and assisting people meet their healthcare needs is one of the greatest things ever. Healthcare in rural America is a challenge and a lot of folks feel lost. That’s where we get to step in and help.”
While the program is in it’s 7 year, Gibson said improving it and accomplishments recently have helped him reach career milestones.
“I actually just completed one huge career goal late last year,” said Gibson. “I passed the International Board of Speciality Certifications exam as a Certified Community Paramedic.”
“Joey is an integral part of our Community Paramedic program and along with the other Community Medics provides an invaluable service to many of our residents,” said Macon County Emergency Management Director Warren Cabe. “His focus is always on the patient and helping that person achieve a positive outcome”
His colleagues are inspired by his efforts both on and off shift.
“Joey truly has a servants heart,” said Todd Doster Macon County EMS Coordinator. “He is one of the most giving and selfless individuals I have ever met. His care and compassion is genuine and he goes above and beyond daily. His connections and relationships along with his never give up attitude allow him to get things done when the situation may seem impossible. While we have many great folks here at Macon County EMS, Joey is truly an asset to our organization and deserving of this honor.”
According to Gibson, if he wasn’t working as a paramedic, he would still be in a service profession to help others.
“I feel that if I wasn’t in the career I’m currently in, I would love being a social worker,” said Gibson. “I often say when I am doing the community care program you do about 75% social work and 25% healthcare. We find that social needs greatly affect the health of a patient.”
His desire to serve and help others is even more apparent in his service outside of his profession. Gibson has often participated in Mission trips to places such as Honduras to provide medical care and assistance to areas in need. Those opportunities to serve are part of what Gibson considers his favorite hobbies outside of work.
“I love hiking, I’m currently working on getting all of the trails to Mount Le Conte done. Out of the 5, I have two left,” said Gibson when asked how he spends his time outside of work. “Going on Medical Mission trips is also something I’m very passionate about, I’ve been able to serve in Honduras around 15 times, Haiti post earthquake twice and several other countries as well. I also love traveling with my family. We are always up for a new adventure.”
Even after dedicating over two decades to a life of public service, Gibson said he is still in awe by the support he regularly receives from the community.
“It is truly an honor to know that people in my hometown nominated me for this award,” said Gibson. “I love Macon County and being able to serve it’s citizens is a true daily reward. God has blessed me with an amazing opportunity to do a job I’m passionate about and often times I feel like I am being blessed by those I work with more than I could possibly be blessing them. We have so many other people in this county that deserve this award, for the citizens to nominate me truly means the world to me. Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough.”