Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service Foundation (STARS)

We are dedicated to providing a safe, rapid, highly-specialized medical transport system for critically ill and injured patients.

STARS Helicopter landing with crews on the ground.Our Story Why We Exist

In the early 1980s, studies showed about half the deaths due to trauma could have been prevented if patients had received critical care sooner. When Dr. Greg Powell lost a young mother who was being transported from a rural area to Calgary by ground ambulance, he decided something had to change. That’s when he founded STARS.

Less than half the population of Western Canada lives in major urban centres and has access to critical care within minutes. For the other half such access is measured in hours. That can mean the difference between life and death; full recovery or permanent damage.

With STARS, those living in rural communities, working in remote areas, travelling on highways or being transported from community hospitals to major medical centres, receive the very best in critical care in helicopters staffed and outfitted as mobile ICUs.


  • The more quickly a patient receives treatment, the much better their recovery.
  • Timely treatment of stroke, heart attacks or brain injuries can save more than $1 million per patient.
  • The economic benefits of helicopter ambulance missions are six times higher than the costs.
  • Patients transported by helicopter ambulance are more likely to survive than those transported by ground ambulance, even though they are more severely injured.

STARS crew providing care inside the helicopter.Our Impact What We Do

Our vision is saving lives through partnership, innovation and leadership. Our mission is to provide a safe, rapid, highly specialized emergency medical transport system for the critically ill and injured. The STARS vision and mission are supported by four pillars of activity:

  1. Emergency medical communications – finding the patient
  2. Patient care and transport – caring for the patient
  3. Education and research – educating the providers
  4. Fundraising & community partnerships – raising funds and working within the community

STARS’ core values are safety, teamwork, accountability, respect and spirit.

Since 1985, STARS has flown more than 27,000 missions from six bases in Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg. To see how many times STARS flew to your community in the past year, please visit our Mission Record:

STARS Recent Results:  In 2014-15, STARS flew 3,084 missions, carrying only critically ill or injured patients. Since 1985, more than 30,000 missions have been carried out.

STARS Strategic Directions for 2013-2018:

  • World-class critical care. We're focused on continuous improvement of the clinical care we provide to our patients, and we're also focused on demonstrating our clinical expertise and the value STARS brings to the health-care system.
  • Innovate for sustainability. Our goal is to ensure we are nimble and adaptable to the changing dynamic of government funding and partnerships. We also aim to ensure our value proposition and competitive advantage is strong and visible to all of our stakeholders.
  • STARS Foundation - the next generation. Our current challenge is to make sure our fundraising arm is positioned to meet our funding needs into the future. Our goal is about re-imagining the STARS Foundation without losing the grassroots relevance that has been so vital to our success.
  • More on our strategic directions can be found in our Financial Report: 2013-2014.

STARS staff offer life-saving care and treatmentOur Programs How We Do It

STARS is a charitable, non-profit organization, and the STARS Foundation is the fundraising arm of the organization. Funding is met through donations received from individuals, service groups, business and corporations, municipalities, and through collaborative agreements with provincial governments.

Our nurses and paramedics are experienced, typically with at least five years professional background in hospitals or ambulance services, before joining us. Those selected to join must then successfully complete a comprehensive and intensive 10-week induction training program that exceeds 200 hours of instruction before they can accept their first mission. After that, a minimum of 96 hours of ongoing specialized air ambulance and critical care training is required annually for as long as they work for STARS.

Becoming a STARS transport physician doesn’t come easy either. Our doctors come from backgrounds that include specialty level emergency medicine and other critical care fields. Like our nurses and paramedics, STARS transport physicians work in the local community and must meet ongoing training requirements.

On board, patients are always cared for by a STARS flight nurse and flight paramedic team. A transport physician accompanies the patient when required, about 20 per cent of the time. Otherwise, they are always available for consultation through telephone or radio link.

The incredible ongoing support of the community helps us continually enhance our innovative and leading-edge air medical programs and service.

Approximately 25 per cent of STARS total mission costs is funded by Alberta Health Services and the remaining 75 per cent comes from fundraising and community partnerships. STARS total operating expenses per base is approximately $10 million a year.

STARS also facilitates a critical care transport medicine education program for all air medical personnel (fixed wing and rotary) in the province. This provides consistent training and equitable education opportunities. STARS also coordinates the movement of critically ill patients from rural hospitals to larger centres.

STARS crew enhances patient care.Our Requests What You Can Do

We are committed to delivering the most appropriate emergency medical care to critically ill or injured patients in the timeliest way possible. Our programs and services are possible because of generous support from individuals, corporations, businesses, governments, and many other sources.

Each STARS program has been built with the goal of enhancing patient care. This has been the main driving force behind STARS since we first began in 1985. The tremendous ongoing support of the community helps us continually enhance our innovative and leading-edge medical programs.

In addition to providing patient care and transport, our diversified support allows STARS to offer value-added programs as part of our services. This includes emergency medical communications through the STARS Emergency Link Centre as well as educational and research resources that include the STARS Mobile Simulation program and the STARS Operational Outreach Program.

The partnerships we have formed with other emergency medical service providers, businesses, and service clubs strengthen our ability to meet our vision of saving lives.

Whether you make a donation, buy a STARS Calendar or Lottery ticket, or volunteer your time, you help make a difference. To see the various ways you can help support STARS, click here:


Miriam Moisan
Development Officer, Planned Giving
Charitable Number: 895094761RR0001

Donate Now