Angelica Cercone knew in high school that she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. Seeking hands-on experience in the field, she took a course at Medical Rescue Team South Authority (MRTSA) to become a licensed EMT and began volunteering with the emergency service in her senior year at Bethel Park.
Today, Dr. Cercone, an accomplished EMS educator and pediatric physician at UPMC Children’s Hospital, is returning to MRTSA in a new, innovative role that brings childhood care to the forefront of emergency services.
“It is honestly a homecoming for me,” Cercone said. “The medics there really, truly gave me my start in medicine and taught me how to gain a patient’s trust and how to be thorough. That really rocketed me into medicine.”
Cercone recently assumed the role of MRTSA’s associate medical director, a new position at the organization where she will work closely with medical director Dr. Mohamed Hagahmed. In this role, Cercone’s focus will be on pediatric care at MRTSA.
“Dr. Cercone brings a mixture of EMS and pediatrics that is not commonly found in the field of EMS,” MRTSA Chief Josh Worth said. “While it is not uncommon to have an associate medical director, it is uncommon for that physician to have a specialty outside of adult emergency medicine…. We are excited to bring on another nationally recognized physician to further enhance the excellent care already provided by the prehospital professionals at MRTSA.”
Part of Cercone’s role will be to interact with crews, accompany them on calls and determine their educational needs. She also will ensure that crews receive up-to-date pediatric education and recommend updates to protocols when needed. She will review pediatric care at MRTSA and provide recommendations for improvement.
“We’re realizing that in EMS, the call volume for children is much smaller than it is for adults. So, providers don’t get to have as much experience with pediatric patients,” Cercone explained. “Because of that, there are gaps that have been identified in pediatric care.”
Cercone plans to work with MRTSA to identify ways to eliminate those gaps, and hopes to create a model that can be followed on a larger scale by EMS services nationwide.
“It’s really innovative. It’s very patient care directed. We want the best thing for both adult and pediatric patients,” Cercone said of the role, while crediting Hagahmed for his efforts. “I’m hoping that this will inform a larger conversation on what pediatric education needs to be implemented for EMS as a whole.”
Cercone has a breadth of knowledge in both the EMS and pediatric fields. She received her bachelor’s degree from Geneva College in biology and a medical degree from Pennsylvania State University.
While in college, she put her skills to use across the region, working at St. Clair Health as a communications specialist and an EMT at Kennywood and Sandcastle.
She’s always loved interacting with children, so she knew she wanted to focus on pediatrics. But she also wanted to work in EMS.
Cercone completed her residency in Cleveland at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital before returning to Pittsburgh to train at UPMC Children’s Hospital. She completed a fellowship at UPMC that focused on EMS, which was rare for a pediatric physician.
“Pittsburgh is really, as a whole, looking toward the future and wanting to integrate pediatrics into the EMS system,” Cercone said. “I really felt very supported from when I was new and knew nothing about medicine and I came to MRTSA looking for experience, all the way to coming back home and getting this additional training that’s not typical for a pediatrician.”
Today, Cercone works as an attending physician in Children’s emergency department, where she also serves as assistant medical director for EMS. She also works in medical command at UPMC, where she answers calls from EMS services across the city to provide advice and guidance to first responders.
This added role at MRTSA is a “dream job” for her.
“I’m a South Hills girl and I’m really here to give back to the community,” she said. “MRTSA has this beautiful energy about them and so does Dr. Hagahmed. It’s just a really great group and I’m thankful for this opportunity.”