McDowell Tech and public service run deep in Captain Sam Robinson’s veins.
Friday night, Sam proved to be a touchstone for both of those pursuits as he graduated with both an Associate Degree in Emergency Management and an Associate Degree in Emergency Medical Services from McDowell Technical Community College.
“The knowledge I learned in these programs, I can put to use in my daily work. Emergency Management, for example, prepared me well for key elements of emergency management—preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery. During the last two semesters of my degree program, for example, I helped manage our agency’s response to the COVID crisis, and the knowledge and skills I was gaining helped me a lot in this process,” Robinson said.
As Coordinator of the Community Paramedic Program, a division of McDowell County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Sam is responsible for coordinating holistic care for elderly and at-risk patients in McDowell County who need help accessing and utilizing community resources and primary care physicians to improve their quality of life and reduce their use of Emergency Room and EMS Services. He and his staff also work with patients who have been discharged from local hospitals and are at high risk of readmission. Finally, they conduct community wellness events to educate the public on chronic health conditions such as diabetes and uncontrolled high blood pressure, both of which can have more serious long-term health consequences.
And in his spare time, Robinson serves as a Reserve Officer with McDowell County Sheriff’s Department, a sworn law enforcement position.
For Robinson, however, public service is not isolated to his own work and personal pursuits. It’s a family affair.
His mom and dad, Richard and Derata Robinson, are both nurses at Black Mountain Neuro Medical Center, a specialized skilled nursing facility for adults with complex medical and/or behavioral conditions that co-exist with disorders such as Alzheimers and related dementias or intellectual and developmental disabilities. His sister, Stephanie Davis, works with troubled youth, and his wife, Caitlin Robinson, is a fourth grade teacher at Nebo Elementary School.
Years ago, when he graduated from high school, Robinson worked for about four years doing landscaping, but later decided to take a Nurse Aide class at McDowell Tech, which charted a new trajectory for his life. He began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant and later enrolled in nursing school at McDowell Tech. He soon found, however, that his passion was more aligned with emergency medical services than nursing, which led him to transfer into an accelerated Emergency Medical Technical (EMT) program.
A year later, in December, 2011, he graduated from the EMT-Basic program and advanced into the Paramedic program, from which he graduated in December, 2012. Shortly thereafter, in 2013, he began working with McDowell EMS.
But a couple of years later, Robinson found himself wanting to delve deeper into public service, but in a different way. That is when he enrolled in the Basic Law Enforcement Program at McDowell Tech, and in 2016, he graduated, took state certification exams and became a sworn law enforcement officer.
“I am happy with my career,” said Robinson, “but I wanted to advance my knowledge and skills in EMS and Emergency Management, so when McDowell Tech started online associate degree programs in both of these areas, I enrolled.”
Robinson and his wife have a four-year-old daughter, Sawyer, and having an online program allowed him to work full-time, further his education and still have a family life.
“I never missed any time with my daughter,” he said. “Once she was in bed at night, I could focus on school. Online classes allowed me to never miss out. And it allowed me to learn at my own pace.”
Robinson says that he will likely pursue bachelor and master’s level work in the future, but for now, he is going to enjoy a much-needed breather.
Given his history, don’t count on that lasting a long time. Robinson is not one to rest on his laurels, as the saying goes.
“Sam’s commitment to public service and the medical and law enforcement communities is commendable,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President. “He is a prime example of commitment, passion and self-sacrifice in every way. We wish him the best in his career and thank him for his service to our community.”