Drew Slemp wears many coats of many colors

Tom KingOur Town Heroes, Sevier

With heartfelt apologies to Dolly Parton and her “Coat of Many Colors” signature song, we have an Our Town Hero who wears many coats with many colors. Keeping up with everything this guy does is dizzying.


Like his Saturday-Sunday night on a recent weekend. Working out of the Lifestar base in Morristown, the crew flew to Sevierville and then to Lexington, Kentucky; then it was back to Morristown and 15 minutes later to Middlesboro, Kentucky, to UT Medical Center; and back to Morristown, to Greene County to Johnson City.

Drew Slemp

“Yes, it was a busy night,” he said. “Today (Sunday) I’ll be in Loudon County teaching.”

His closet is an array of uniforms, flight suits, shirts and polo shirts, pants, caps and shoes and boots. Then there’s his car, a four-door, 2016 model with 150,000 miles under its hood. Its rear seat and trunk are packed – bullet-proof vests, firearms, safety and first-aid medical supplies and equipment, teaching supplies and teaching mannequins.

“If I come upon a wreck with injuries, I have pretty much what I need until the first responders get to us,” he says.

Meet Drew Slemp, 53, a man full of energy, talent and drive. You might ask just what all does he do? Glad you asked. He is a:

  • Full-time flight paramedic for UT Lifestar Emergency Medical helicopters for 23 years, working from its base at the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport.
  • Part-time Loudon County Sheriff’s Office deputy and EMS instructor.
  • Part-time SWAT Team medic with the Morristown Police Department and sworn reserve officer.
  • Instructor at the Walters State Regional Law Enforcement Academy in Greeneville.
  • Part-time paramedic with Priority Ambulance in Loudon County.

Slemp was reared in Cave Spring, Virginia, near Roanoke by his parents – mother Sondra and his father, Dr. Andy Slemp, 78. He is still practicing and seeing patients two or three days a week.

Drew says life with Dad lured him into his career. “I remember going on rounds with Dad when I was 9 and 10 and I heard the stories about that side of it and law enforcement, too,” Slemp says. “I watched the old TV show ‘Emergency’ and fell in love with it – fire, rescue, cops, all of it.”

This career began in high school when he joined the Cave Spring Volunteer Rescue Squad. Next was paramedic school, then working for the Roanoke Fire Department for three years and seven years with rescue helicopters at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

Slemp moved here in 1996 when he got married and applied to UT Lifestar. He began there in 1998.

His time in the classrooms for the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office and the Law Enforcement Academy in Greeneville is time he thoroughly enjoys. “One of my true passions is that law enforcement officers have the tools and knowledge to help care for victims. I use the military’s Tactical Combat Casualty Care program as the basis for my classes,” he says. “Every officer in Tennessee should be equipped to care for people on site of whatever situation they are dealing with.”

In what spare time he has, he is educating himself on “personal safety in non-permissive environments, in foreign countries.” It is, he says, something that interests him, advising people how to help themselves should a medical issue arise while they are traveling.

And about this career comprised of a variety of first responder/emergency services roles, he says: “It’s always something different day-to-day and week-to-week that enables me to serve in different capacities. I feel like and hope I am making a difference at Lifestar and in law enforcement. I like being that guy who gets to be there and help people with whatever emergency situation they are facing. That’s who I am.”

Tom King writes this Monday column – Our Town Heroes – for KnoxTNToday.com. Suggest future stories for him at tking535@gmail.com or call him at 865-659-3562.

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