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Student EMTs provide support at events around the city, such as the Lowell Folk Festival each summer.
April 9, 2019

UMass Lowell student EMTs make Lowell a HEARTSafe campus

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  • Lowell
Emergency Medical Services program recognized for excellence

Thanks to the work of the university’s award-winning Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program, UMass Lowell has once again been designated a HEARTSafe campus.

UML received the designation, which recognizes universities’ commitment to training and awareness of emergency cardiac care, from the National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation at its annual conference in Pittsburgh.

A dozen student emergency medical technicians (EMTs) attended the recent conference, where the university also received a Striving for Excellence award.

“The UMass Lowell EMS program has once again distinguished itself with these recognitions, which are the result of the student EMTs’ hard work and dedication,” says Tom Miliano, senior director of administrative services. 

In 2014, UMass Lowell became one of the first universities in the country to receive the HEARTSafe designation. There are just four other HEARTSafe campuses in the state: Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University and Brandeis University.

To earn the designation, which is good for three years, institutions must meet specific criteria to ensure that anyone suffering sudden cardiac arrest on campus will have the best possible chance for recovery. The requirements include providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training to at least 5 percent of the campus community, as well as access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs). UML has 70 AEDs in campus buildings and emergency vehicles.

Chris Gottschalk, a senior public health major and EMT field supervisor with the EMS program, says meeting the HEARTSafe criteria can result in saved lives. 

“Should someone suffer a cardiac arrest on campus, the chances of survival are significantly higher than if it happened somewhere else, which is something we take pride in,” he says.

According to the American Heart Association, the survival rate for cardiac arrest events outside of a hospital is less than 12 percent. CPR can double or triple the chances of survival.

The university’s EMS program, which was founded as a student club in 1984, provides year-round, 24/7 care to the university community. In addition to responding to medical emergencies on campus, student EMTs staff community events such as the Lowell Folk Festival and provide support to local emergency responders as needed.

During the Merrimack Valley gas explosions last September, five student EMTs joined members of the Dracut Fire Department in providing logistical support at the command center in Lawrence.

UML EMS also provides CPR and first aid training to students, faculty and staff. Junior biology major Jeyrie Ramos manages the training program, which is certified by the American Heart Association and serves as a key source of revenue for the EMS program. In 2018, 324 members of the university community received training (178 in CPR and 146 in first aid).

“I love that our organization is so involved with training,” says Ramos, a certified EMT and aspiring doctor who appreciates the education she’s receiving as a member of the EMS program. “We are continually reviewing protocols and training. We’re always learning more.”

More than 30 students from across all academic disciplines take part in the EMS program, which includes a cadet program for EMTs in training. EMTs receive a small stipend for each shift they work.

During a recent weekly meeting at University Crossing, there was a plastics engineering major (junior Erin Wooldridge), a criminal justice major (senior Brittany O’Neil), a nursing major (sophomore Katelyn Libby), a psychology major (junior Dylan Shairs) and two biology majors (senior Isabelle Seal and Ramos).

“The diversity of experience is what attracted me to join as a freshman,” says Shairs, who became certified as an EMT while serving in the Army. “It’s good to be around different types of  people.”

Libby says her EMT training has helped with her nursing assessments and in her interactions with patients.

“It’s made talking to patients so much easier, because we do that so often” as EMTs, she says.  

The students are exposed to a broad range of training. For instance, three student EMTs (senior Samantha Malley, freshman Cameron Schille and O’Neil), along with 15 criminal justice students from an emergency management course taught by adjunct instructor Jessica Kuron, recently took part in an active shooter exercise at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. 

The students played the roles of victims during the exercise, which was funded by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security and included several public safety agencies, including the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and the Massachusetts State Police.

“The protocols of how EMS responds to these events are constantly changing, so being involved with these trainings helps students quite a bit,” says Kevin Conley, the university’s emergency preparedness and EMS coordinator. “It gave students another layer of exposure to the professional world of emergency management and public safety.”

The EMS program also has a strong network of alumni, led by Patrick Kiley ’18, who serves as special operations and alumni development coordinator.

While the 12 student EMTs were in Pittsburgh for the two-day conference, a trio of 2017 graduates – Brendan Newell, Colin Russell and Kevin Twombly – returned to campus to help maintain emergency coverage. 

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