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Jody - helicopterJoseph (Jody) Ion ('10): A busy health professional who is making a difference

Saving a life in a helicopter at 3,000 feet, attending to a patient in a hospital intensive care unit or burning the midnight oil to study for a final – that's a typical day for Joseph (Jody) Ion ('10), who graduated from Venango College of Clarion University with an associate degree in nursing and is a few semesters shy of earning his bachelor's degree.

His journey to this point has been both non-traditional and exciting. He credits Clarion with helping him open doors.

"I went back for a degree because I wanted to make myself recession-proof," said Ion, 41. "I've been married for 16 years and have two sons, so I wanted to provide more stability in our lives."

Going back to school after so long was daunting for the Knox resident who grew up in East Brady, but attending that first open house at Clarion reassured him he was in the right place.

"I thought I would find a lot of 18-year-olds, but when I walked in, there was a room full of people just like me," Ion said. "The average age was 34. They were all people needing a new start."

Ion found his professors to be supportive. "They always had time and worked with me, because they understood I had a life beyond college, with kids and a family," he said.

Now a flight paramedic and intensive care nurse, Ion began his medical training by taking a nine-month paramedic course in 1992. He began working as a paramedic for a local hospital in 1993.

"I will never forget picking up a guy on one of my first calls who eventually died. There was nothing we could do and his death was inevitable, but this lit a fire in me," Ion said. "I didn't want to stand by and be helpless. I wanted to further my education so I could be there to do all I could to save them."

Jody IonFive years later, Ion became a flight paramedic for STATMedEvac, where he continues to work. In 2007 he began nursing classes at Venango. Ion got his Associate of Science in Nursing degree in 2010, graduating with honors. He is now completing his bachelor's degree online through Clarion University.

Two years ago Ion began working as a casual nurse in the intensive care unit and currently holds this position at Butler Memorial Hospital.

"I can now see the whole picture," he said. "Before having the nursing education, I only saw one side of the story as a paramedic. I really have the best of both worlds now."

In addition to his paramedic and nursing responsibilities, Ion is building a salon in his home for his cosmetologist wife, Jolene, and enjoys hunting and geocaching with his sons Nathan, 12, and Austin, 15.

Ion truly enjoys what he does and does it selflessly.

"It is so rewarding when you see someone who was picked up in the helicopter and who looked pretty bad, and then they come back a month or so later looking healthy and thanking you for saving them. Sometimes the praise is embarrassing," he said. "I do it because I love doing it."

He is contemplating pursuing a master's degree in education.

"I have taught EMT and paramedic classes, as well as specialty certification classes, and I really enjoy showing people new things. I would like to someday teach at the college level," Ion said. "I would really like to give something back and make those apprehensive students feel comfortable. I know what it's like to be in their shoes."

7/15/2013 8:00 PM

Above and Beyond