Sparta native Houston Austin has taken on the position of the EMS program director for Motlow Community College, and he is bringing a lot of experience to the position, along with some big plans.
Austin, who worked full time for White County Emergency Medical Service for six years and is still there part-time, began working for MCC as an adjunct skills instructor in the fall of 2017. Less than a year later, he was the full-time paramedic coordinator, coordinating the program out of Bell Buckle and serving as the lead instructor.
The following school year brought more changes as Austin moved to the Sparta campus as the coordinator of the completely new EMT/AEMT program – a position created because White County expressed a need for the program. Austin was responsible for the complete development of the program as well as being instrumental in bringing an ambulance simulator, one of only a few in the state, to the Motlow Sparta campus.
Now he finds himself as the director of the entire Motlow Community College EMS Program, a position that has him supervising and overseeing the entire 11-county region. The position means less classroom time for Austin but more behind the scenes work as he organizes classes and helps coordinators provide the best education possible for students interested in pursuing a future in emergency medical services.
“I am committed 100 percent to education,” Austin said. “My family lives in this county [White]. I want to be sure the very best instructors are educating the people that want to do this because they may be taking care of my family as well as my community, too. I want to be sure they are taken care of by competent and knowledgeable EMTs and paramedics.”
Austin, who got his education at Tennessee Technological University, is excited about the opportunities that exist for students through Motlow Community College.
“We have a very good success rate for job placement,” he said. “We can’t put them out there fast enough. We have services calling us telling us they need more professionals. I wish they had this program when I was doing this. Finding a job as an EMT was difficult.”
Austin said another advantage to the Motlow EMS program is the variety of locations for classes rather than one or two sites.
“That’s definitely an advantage, being able to take classes and get certified right in your hometown,” he said. “The Sparta campus even offers evening classes as that’s what the community was telling us they needed.”
Austin added that many students participating in the program do so at little to no out-of-pocket costs as Motlow accepts a variety of federally funded programs, including the Hope Scholarship, GI Bill, TN Reconnect, TN Promise, and Pell grants.
“Those monies will continue to pay through more than just the basic EMT program,” he said. “After you finish Basic, you can continue on to Advanced EMT and even look to an Associate of Science in Paramedicine.”
In fact, Austin encourages those who have already taken AEMT or paramedic classes at another location, such as TTU, and are working in the EMS field, to consider transferring those credits and getting that associate’s degree.
“Through our Prior Learning Assessment, we can accept transcripts and get them their associate’s with just five general education classes,” he said, adding that if they hadn’t used TN Reconnect or had benefits left on a GI Bill, those could be used to pay for the five required classes.
Austin has recently hired an EMT/EMA coordinator to replace himself at the Sparta Campus.
“Brian Williams is continuing to build the program in Sparta and is available for anyone with thoughts, concerns, or hopes of joining the program,” Austin stated.
Interested persons could contact Williams at Bwilliams1@mscc.edu or contact Austin at Haustin@mscc.edu for more information.
As for Austin, he is going to be busy with his new position and planning for the future, one that he hopes will someday soon see a fully functioning paramedic program being offered at the Sparta campus.
“I am going to continue to expand and make EMS better for tomorrow than it is today,” he said. “That’s my goal as an educator – to continue making the field that I love even better.”