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Kurtz and Vana Families Invest in Silver Cross EMS System’s Paramedic Training Program

Ambulance responses are often hectic with lights flashing, sirens blaring and bystanders watching. Yet, in the midst of chaos, paramedics must calmly survey the situation and work quickly to stabilize and transport the patient to the nearest hospital or emergency department. But how do you prepare future paramedics for all the variables that can happen in the back of an ambulance without taking one off the street? It’s simple, you build one indoors.  

Thanks to a generous $100,000 gift from the Kurtz and Vana Family to build a realistic  ambulance simulator, students enrolled in the Silver Cross EMS System’s Paramedic Education Program will have realistic hands-on experience before ever leaving the classroom. 

Photo Caption #1:  Tom Vana, former President of Kurtz Ambulance Services, and his family provide the Silver Cross EMS System’s Paramedic Education Program with $100,000 to build a classroom ambulance simulator.

“The role of first responder is an important and critical one, which is why it is so important that they practice, practice, practice for every possible emergent situation. This is why my family and I are so happy to provide Silver Cross with this realistic simulator. Silver Cross and the EMS community have been so good to us over the years, that we wanted to do something to make sure that the paramedics in our community continue to receive the top-notch training they deserve so they can go out and save more lives, ” said Tom Vana, former president of Kurtz Ambulance Service.  At age 20, Vana was the youngest to graduate from Silver Cross’ paramedic training program and did so at the top of his class, receiving the golden stethoscope award. In 1987 Vana met his future wife, Michele, at Silver Cross Hospital where she was employed as an emergency nurse for nearly 20 years. In 2017, the Vanas, together with Tom’s mom, Marilyn Kurtz, invested in Silver Cross with an undisclosed transformational gift with a promise that a portion of the funds be used to purchase an ambulance simulator.  To commemorate the family’s investment and 40-year friendship, Silver Cross named the Emergency Department as The Kurtz and Vana Family Emergency Pavilion

Realistic Simulator for Real Life Situations

This state-of-the-art learning tool has all the cabinets, benches, supplies, monitors and confined space of a fully functioning ambulance built inside the EMS Training Classroom on the Silver Cross Hospital campus in New Lenox. There is a “Medi Man,” a human simulator that comes equipped with blood, a pulse and airways, and can emulate all kinds of symptoms. Medi Man can be hooked up to the ambulance simulator’s monitors and a functioning suction system with oxygen so students can practice clearing airways.    

Photo Caption #2: Dave Mikolajczak, Medical Director of Silver Cross EMS System; Ruth Colby, President/CEO of Silver Cross Hospital; Michele,Tom, Matthew Vana, Amy Vana; and Mitchell Cunningham dedicate  the new classroom ambulance simulator at Silver Cross Hospital. The Kurtz and Vana family gave Silver Cross EMS System’s Paramedic Education Program $100,000 to purchase the training equipment.

A large opening in the wall allows instructors to watch the action without being in the room.  And what can’t be seen in person can be picked up through video cameras for remote observation and playback later.  

“The technology is as lifelike as it gets so that we can make situations as intense as possible,” said Dr. Dave Mikolajczak, Medical Director of the Silver Cross EMS System. “This allows students a safe environment to make mistakes and learn from them - ultimately saving more lives!” 

“About 30,000 of our patients come by ambulance ever year to Silver Cross Hospital,” said Ruth Colby, Silver Cross Hospital President and CEO.   “And if you add in transports to other area ERs, we are talking over 100,000 patients annually who will benefit from this new training equipment.” 

History of Supporting First Responders

For the past 43 years, Silver Cross has served as the resource hospital for the area’s largest Emergency Medical Services (EMS) System, which includes over 1,800 EMS providers, six associate hospitals, 28 fire departments, ambulance services and dispatch centers. Paramedics, first responders and dispatchers rely on Silver Cross for their primary and continuing education, quality assurance, and administrative support so they are prepared to respond to any and all medical emergencies. 

 On May 11, Silver Cross graduated 43 paramedics and has another 33 students ready to begin the one-year course in June.  The Silver Cross EMS System coordinates courses for Paramedic, EMT-Intermediate, EMT-Basic, PHRN, ECRN, First Responder, and Emergency Medical Dispatcher, as well as specialty courses for ACLS, PALS, PEPP, AMLS, and PHTLS.  To learn more, visit

Located at 1900 Silver Cross Blvd., New Lenox, IL 60451   Main Phone (815) 300-1100

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Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care.  These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.