The Barbara A. Hess Education & Research Award, sponsored by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, is given to an individual who has significantly contributed to the enhancement, development and/or promotion of the air medical community through their research and/or educational efforts.To pay homage to Barbara Hess and her contribution to medical transport, AAMS now gives an annual award in her name.
Barbara A. Hess was the founder and director of the Flight for Life air medical program. She along with Joseph Darin, MD, then Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, started Flight For Life in 1984. Barb began her flight nursing career with Emery Air Charter. In 1981, she was named the program director for Lifeline Emergency Helicopter at St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, IL. In January 1984, Barb began Flight For Life-Wisconsin with a Bell 206 Long Ranger, a single engine helicopter. Flight for Life-International, a fixed wing program, soon followed in April of 1985, and then Flight For Life-Northern Illinois in May of 1987. Barb was a hugely determined person with a wonderful sense of humor. She worked tirelessly introducing the helicopter and fixed wing service into large cities like Chicago to small towns in Michigan. She often visited former Flight For Life patients and their families, in the hospital and at their homes, making them a part of the ever-expanding Flight For Life family. It was because of Barb’s early vision and dedication that Flight For Life has become the program that it is today, dedicated to the utmost in safety and patient care.
It was not just the success of Flight For Life that Barb worked so hard for, but for the success of the air medical community as well. She was an active member of AAMS, serving as membership chairman and as a regional director. She was named to the National Dedicated Fixed Wing Air Ambulance Advisory Board in 1987. Barb and Flight For Life hosted the national air medical conference in Milwaukee in 1987 as well.
In 1986, Barb was diagnosed with breast cancer. She waged a fierce two-year battle, but died of the disease on October 11, 1988. Several weeks before she died, Barb was recognized by her peers at AMTC in Boston with the Marriott-Carlson Award. The Marriott-Carlson Award continues to be the one of community’s highest honors, given to an individual who has demonstrated “long and dedicated service to the promotion of emergency air medical services”.