TUPELO, Miss.—Family and friends recently presented the second annual Jim Spruiell Memorial Scholarship to Timothy Harris of Union County, a nursing student at Itawamba Community College.
The Jim Spruiell Memorial Scholarship is awarded to individuals who are pursuing a career in an emergency health care-related field. Spruiell was one of three people who died Nov. 19, 2017, in a medical helicopter crash in rural Arkansas. The helicopter, which was operated by Pafford EMS and Air Methods, was en route from Pine Bluff, Ark., to DeWitt, Ark., when the crash occurred.
Spruiell joined the North Mississippi Medical Center family in 1992 as a paramedic and later transferred to CareFlight as a flight paramedic. He earned an associate degree in nursing and transitioned into the role of flight nurse in 2000. He was promoted to chief flight nurse in 2015. Spruiell acquired many professional accreditations and graciously shared his knowledge and passion with others.
Harris, 35, has plans to become a flight nurse like Spruiell. “My passion for EMS and emergency medicine was planted years ago when my grandfather suffered a heart attack and later a stroke and was airlifted to Memphis,” Harris said. “This incident planted a seed in my young mind that was further cultivated by my uncle’s untimely death from an acute heart attack.”
His own first experience with emergency medicine came several years later when he was struck by a car while working a road construction job. “The paramedics arrived on the scene and transported me to the Med in Memphis, and by God’s grace I am here today,” Harris said. After recovering from the near-fatal accident, he left construction and joined his church’s staff as a minister.
“A few years ago my wife and I decided to reevaluate our careers, and I began to seek an occupation that would merge my compassion to help others in need with the ability to provide for my family, become educated and skillful, and use that to help someone,” Harris said. He loves aviation and had taken flight lessons as a young man, but discontinued them to save money for a church mission trip. After researching what a flight nurse does, Harris called NMMC and was connected with Spruiell, who was serving as NMMC’s chief flight nurse. “Mr. Spruiell was a God-send,” he said. “He talked to me for what seemed like forever. He answered all my questions and gave me some of his background in being a paramedic and obtaining his RN license. I still have the piece of paper in my Bible with his name and notes on it and his step-by-step guides to reach this goal.”
Harris has followed Spruiell’s guidance, becoming an Emergency Medical Technician and now entering his second year of nursing school. He also serves with his local volunteer fire department and is active with his church, The Sycamore, where he teaches Sunday School, assists the pastor with projects, is a musician and small group leader.
“I chose to be an emergency health care professional because that’s when people need you the most,” Harris said. “I know firsthand that these experiences can positively impact your life and I hope to do that in becoming a flight nurse and be one of the same “angels” that I have experienced from great men such as Mr. Spruiell. I strive to be one of the team of men and women who have medical knowledge, a passion for compassion and the bravery to go save, stabilize and transport patients in their greatest hour of need.”
Scholarship recipients can include those pursuing a career as a trauma surgeon, emergency medicine physician, registered nurse, paramedic or emergency medical technician (EMT). Recipients can be high school seniors preparing to enter college or individuals currently in the workforce about to embark on a second career. The Jim Spruiell Memorial Scholarship is founded in memory of his impressive work ethic and passion to help others, whether in the field or in the classroom. His wife Lisa will serve on the selection committee each year. To learn more or to donate to the Jim Spruiell Memorial Scholarship, visit www.nmhsfoundation.org.