A Southern Indiana health official has been named the next chief medical director for Indiana Emergency Medical Services.
Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel will start in the role May 31, following the departure of Dr. Michael Kaufmann last month.
Yazel will also stay on as the county health officer, where he’s worked since 2017.
Yazel says his work in emergency services and public health initiatives – including being at the forefront of COVID-19 response in the area and addressing the addiction crisis – have prepared him for the role.
“I’m really excited to get out there and learn about some of the programs and [help] places build some of their programs,” he said. “So I think there’s a potential to do a lot of good out there.”
Yazel is also an emergency room doctor, chief medical officer at LifeSpring Health Systems and a member of grassroots addiction resources and education group Clark County CARES.
In his new, part-time role, he hopes to help build up the state’s EMS workforce and address wellness within its staff.
That includes providing more training options and advocating for better pay.
“If you really sat down and looked at it, the salary for your average EMT or paramedic is completely out of line with the level of training and responsibility that’s bestowed on them,” he said.
Yazel also wants to help bridge gaps in service – helping established organizations look at new initiatives and building up resources, especially in rural areas.
“Everybody in the state of Indiana deserves to have outstanding EMS care, but those needs are different in different parts of the state,” he said.
Indiana Department of Homeland Security Executive Director Steve Cox appointed Yazel to the new role. The Indiana EMS Commission approved the appointment last week, which was finalized Monday.
“I’m excited for Dr. Yazel to join IDHS as Indiana EMS medical director,” Cox said in a statement. “He is an energetic, experienced and well-respected physician who has worked in emergency medicine and public health for many years, and we look forward to him bringing his record of successes to communities across the state.”
Yazel has helped create and improve programming for people with substance use disorder amid a regional addiction crisis.
He’s also helped lead local partnerships with first responders that connected people unable to leave their homes with COVID-19 vaccines through the statewide Homebound Hoosiers Program.
He helped organize the PulsePoint program as well, which alerts registered residents when someone nearby is having a cardiac situation or an opioid overdose so they may be able to help before first responders arrive.
Yazel said his new role will help him advocate for the region.
“You don’t see a lot of appointments for state positions coming from our part of the state, and I do realize the importance of that,” he said. “Obviously I want to represent myself well and do a good job, but I also understand that I’m representing our whole area.”
Yazel is a graduate of Ball State University, Indiana University and the University of Louisville School of Medicine.