Russ Reina stumbled into ambulance work at the birth of Emergency Medical Services and found himself trying to legitimize a new profession. He agitated the systems he was in to support better their EMS workers (“Russ Reina was a burr in the backside of every Emergency Medical Services system he worked in,” John Eaglesham, EMT-P, Past Chairman, California Ambulance Association). Russ burned out on the politics not long after crafting the first AFL-CIO Union affiliation with EMS workers, the California Paramedic’s Association.

That led him into a quest to experience more of the healing arts, and to use EMS as a metaphor to get medics of all stripes talking about their challenges. Russ became involved in alternative modalities, including body and energy and Human Potential work, along with spiritual counseling. He lived and worked with a traditional Lakota medicine family as fire tender and lived in intentional communities. He also delved into performing arts including, writing, acting, stand-up comedy, movie making (Healer, which he wrote, a full-length film, opened the 1994 Santa Barbara International Film Festival) and music. Currently, Russ does photography, writing, counseling and workshops on the island of Maui, where he is a tour guide.