An Interview with AHA Instructor Sherrie Wilson: Dallas Fire Department’s First Female Firefighter

What inspired you to become a CPR, First Aid and AED Instructor?

I started out 36 years ago as a paramedic inside a firefighting unit, teaching my colleagues CPR in order

Sherrie Wilson, paramedic and firefighter, has been instructing students in CPR for 36 years.

Sherrie Wilson, paramedic and firefighter, has been instructing students in CPR for 36 years.

to keep credentials current. One day, a firefighter asked me to help him teach a class away from the department. It made me realize that I could expand my mission to save lives. I chose to focus on the independent instructors and entrepreneurs – the so-called “little guys.” Now I have more than 644 instructors in 32 states with many national clients. For me, operating a successful business is the impossible come true because of hard work and dedication to the mission.

Who has influenced you in particular?

So many people have a hand in my growth over the years, but there are a few who stand apart:

  • AHA Territory Director Susan Montalvo was my first ECC manager, a real leader. She believed in people and challenged me to be the best in the business. Because of her I feel that I am living up to that challenge.
  • Mike Murrow in the AHA international training division invited me to go to Mexico and roll out training with him. He taught me advanced courses and he built up my confidence so that I could stand toe-to-toe with physicians and inquisitive students. He knew the subject cold, and he pushed me out of my comfort zone.
  • Sam Wilson, my spouse. He just kept blowing the wind beneath me. He believed in me.
One of the many classes Sherrie teaches weekly.

One of the many classes Sherrie teaches weekly.

What are the top things do you want your students to remember when they leave your class?

  1. High quality CPR
  2. In an emergency situation, ask yourself–did you try? Did you come outside of yourself, your fears, your stories in your head, and get over there with another person and try to save their life? Sometimes emergency situations don’t go the way we hope for so, regardless of outcome, it is important to always try your hardest.
  3. I want them to have a “feel good” experience with emergency response. It is not what you say or do, it’s about how you made someone feel.
  4. Everyone who takes my class is upping their game to include saving lives. They are heroes in their own lives.

What are some challenges you regularly face at work?

Compliance is always a factor in this business. People want to teach but they want to take shortcuts, not always following the rules, not buying books or cutting a course short to fit their schedule. I teach integrity and leadership to my instructor network because when you live with integrity, you sleep well and you are proud of what you do. It is important to not only have integrity in this business, but additionally, to do it very well and the way it was intended to be done. My goal in the next year is to double the size of my Training Center, then triple it after that, all the while maintaining a high degree of integrity with the AHA.

What was one of your most defining moments in life?

My dream was always to save lives and I did that by becoming the first female firefighter in the Dallas Fire Department. Whether on duty or off, saving lives is what “juices” me, excites me and keeping the blood flowing through my veins. I now have a book and a screen play that is being optioned about this. I am always thinking about what the next big thing is and how to take it from impossible dream to completed miracle.

If you had a motto, what would that be?

“The first ingredient of a miracle is an impossible situation.” I really believe that if people take a moment and consider the possibilities and use faith inside of an impossible situation, they will begin to see the miracles around them. The AHA does this around the idea of cardiac arrest. I do this around nearly every area my life. Fear is the fire – and faith puts the fire out.

4 thoughts on “An Interview with AHA Instructor Sherrie Wilson: Dallas Fire Department’s First Female Firefighter

  1. So proud to see how far you have come. Your commitment to saving more lives and integrity as the benchmark for doing things the right way is palatable. Best to you –

  2. I am an instructor in Sherrie’s Training Center. She runs a “fine-tuned” operation allowing the teaching process to go as smoothly as possible. Compared to her Training Center it is no surprise that Sherrie has had all of these amazing accomplishments. I have so much respect for her work with professionals and in the community. What a wonderful title to carry, “first female firefighter in Dallas.” Sherrie, you are truly a pioneer, and other women in and around this profession are grateful to have someone as accomplished as yourself to look up to. You have a true passion for your work, and it shows in all of the programs, organizations, and training sessions that you are involved with. As a mentor, young professionals are at an advantage to have someone like you to look up to and emulate. I am proud to be a part of your Training Center, and I will continue to strive to provide a high quality education that you have laid the foundation for.

  3. Sherrie, what a great interview! Gorgeous picture of you too! Congratulations for the success of your training center – it has certainly grown. I would like a copy of your book – tell me how to get it!
    YOU truly are amazing!!! Will never forget all of our fun times together at AHA and EMS events! Plus, it was so exciting to work with you as your pursued a very audacious, almost impossible goal to train 20,000 DISD high school students in 3 months to make a profound impact at ECCU! You worked your heart out on that one, but, I as well as I can remember, you trained over15,000?
    So happy for you, Sherrie!

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