Thousands of lives have been saved because of the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society, better known as STARS, and the world renowned helicopter ambulance service was born in the mind of a Calgary emergency room physician.

On a recent Monday morning meeting at STARS headquarters at the Calgary Airport, the staff was informed that the company’s founder, Dr. Gregg Powell, was the recipient of the Marriott-Carlson Lifetime Achievement award presented at the annual Air Medical Transport Conference in Seattle.

The honour is an acknowledgment of Powell’s compassion in offering medical assistance to those in need.

Dr. Powell first saw the advantage of using aircraft to get critically injured people to hospital when he spent time in Australia as a medical student which was followed as a stint as an observer in the Vietnam war.

In 1985 he decided to combine his medical expertise with his aircraft knowledge into a Calgary based project.

“I was the director of Emergency Medicine at the Foothills Hospital and I saw people coming into our care who could be salvaged if we had a bit more speed and talent applied to the pre-hospital part of their care,” says Powell.

A few of the STARS employees have been there almost from the start. The one person who has been with Dr. Powell every step of the way is his wife Linda. She says what's inspiring about Dr. Powell is his passion to make a difference.

“Making a difference to patient care and having teams come together to make sure that the best care possible is provided in a timely way,” says Linda Powell. “He has been committed to that from day one.”

Mike Lamacchia joined STARS as a paramedic in 1992 and now oversees the Alberta operations.

“Dr. Powell is truly an inspirational leader,” says Lamacchia. “Greg, other than being a motivating leader, you know I was always running behind Greg cause he was ten feet ahead of me always.”

From its modest Calgary roots, STARS expanded to Edmonton and Grande Prairie. STARS now serves Saskatchewan, Manitoba and eastern British Columbia.

Lamacchia says Calgarians still have a real pride of ownership in STARS.

“When they see STARS flying in the air they say, ‘You know, that's our helicopter’,” says Lamacchia. “To me that shows we've done our job because it's not ours, it's theirs. It's the community helicopter.”

For Dr. Powell the priority is saving lives but he does appreciate the recognition of a lifetime achievement award.

“It was a wonderful feeling to sit in front of two thousand of my colleagues, whom I've known for many years, from many countries of the world, and to be recognized like that.”

For taking his vision and turning it into a world class service that has saved many lives, Dr. Greg Powell is the CTV Inspiring Albertan.