The story of MD Ambulance began with a rollover just outside Blaine Lake more than half a century ago.

A vehicle containing Dave Dutchak’s sister, brother and cousin hit some loose gravel and went off the road.

Blaine Lake had no ambulance back in 1957. However, Dutchak’s father, Michael, had army first aid training, so he loaded them up and took them to hospital.

Afterwards, people suggested he should start up an ambulance service. He got a station wagon, outfitted it with an army cot and a red light, and started a new family business.

By the age of 12, while other kids were outside playing, Dave helped out with dispatching and washing the vehicle. Later, he moved to Prince Albert to help his two brothers with their ambulance service.

The desire to aid others was ingrained, and in 1979 he started work as a paramedic in Saskatoon. After 34 years as president and CEO, Dutchak has now decided the time is right to retire. His last day will be June 17.

“I’ve lived my whole life in EMS and just been absolutely blessed to do so,” he said.

The highlight of his career is the Maple Leaf jersey – which will join the pictures, coffee mug, tie and watch in his Leafs collection – signed by all the MD Ambulance staff on the company’s 35th anniversary four years ago.

His team is “absolutely everything,” he said.

“It’s a calling to work in EMS. And you have to want to serve and help others. You’ve got that in your DNA, you’ll make a good paramedic, or dispatcher, or (administrator).”

MD Ambulance now has 11 vehicles and 180 staff. Its biggest challenge is keeping up with the region’s population boom and the high call volumes paramedics face, Dutchak said. At the same time, he acknowledges the competing demands for money in health care.

“With the baby boomers there’s all kinds of needs and wants the community has on health, and we’re part of that mix. We understand that and we appreciate that.”

Dutchak said he plans to work as a health consultant after he leaves the company, to help the city capitalize on assets such as the synchrotron.

“Saskatoon should be and can be renowned to be one of the best health care systems in the world.”