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Student EMTs Play Big Role in Campus Safety

Eagle EMS Program contributed 4,200 hours of service in past year


By Reid Oslin | Chronicle Staff

Published: May 12, 2011

Few student-run organizations at Boston College can boast the size – or the operational impact – of Eagle EMS, a division of University Health Services made up of some 170 undergraduates who provide basic medical assistance at campus events and emergency services instruction to the entire BC community.  

Leaders of the Eagle EMS organization estimate that members contributed nearly 4,200 volunteer hours of service this past year – whether assisting medical response crews at Alumni Stadium football games or holding state-certified continuing education classes for students and staff interested in becoming licensed emergency medical technicians.   

Eagle EMS president Christopher Faherty ’13 says that about 80 Eagle EMS volunteers have already received EMT certification at the state or federal level and most other club members are taking courses to qualify for the license.   

Members of the group also visit local elementary and middle schools, teaching students the basics of first aid and accident prevention.  

“You name it, and if there are a large amount of people expected to be there, we will put it on our schedule,” says Faherty, a certified EMT in New Jersey as well as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Little Silver.  

“My heart is set on being a physician,” says Faherty, who is studying psychology and is in the pre-med program. “But not every member of Eagle EMS is in pre-med; we have lots of students studying business or education, too. It doesn’t really get much more basic – if you want to give something back and you want to be a student leader, there are not many places where you can do it like this.  

“Helping a stranger, meeting them for maybe 20 minutes, giving everything you have to them and then saying good-bye, probably never to see them again – it’s kind of the definition of ‘giving back,’” he says. “It’s very fulfilling.”  

Eagle EMS was founded in 1997 by Mark Ritchie ’00, who launched the organization after his attempts to assist a fellow student who was stricken while playing intramural basketball in the Recreation Complex failed to revive him. Ritchie is currently a physician’s assistant in Utica, NY.  

Faherty began his own volunteer career at his local firehouse, where once or twice a week he helped firefighters and EMTs organize their equipment. In subsequent years, he took various EMT courses and eventually became state certified.

“I always remember my first call as an observer in the ambulance. An elderly gentleman had fallen. I looked at him and thought ‘Somebody should call 9-1-1.’ Then I realized, ‘You are 9-1-1.’”   

He laughs: “It was pretty scary at the time.  

“Most things are not life or death, but they do happen,” says Faherty, who was named EMS Eagle president by the end of his freshman year – the youngest student ever to hold that post.  

Eagle EMS members work with professional first responders, riding with ambulance crews as observers and helping with campus directions, or scheduling more than a dozen CPR classes for the BC community throughout the academic year. They receive medical direction from University Health Services Director Dr. Thomas Nary and daily advisement from the Office of Student Programs.   

“They are professionals,” says Dr. Nary.  “They are accredited and can and do work in their own communities, city ambulances or any other service. It’s a tremendous opportunity for them – they don’t just do events, they are first responders to any student or others with [medical] difficulties on campus. Many of them are going in to nursing or pre-med or whatever, but others are there because they enjoy the work."  

Earlier this spring, Eagle EMS received a “Striving for Excellence” award from the 200-member Collegiate EMS Foundation during the organization’s spring meeting in Philadelphia.  

Faherty says Eagle EMS would eventually like to have their own first response vehicle, as do similar student emergency medical teams at University of Massachusetts, Northeastern, Fordham, Georgetown and Notre Dame.   

“We like to say that we are EMTs who also happen to be students,” Faherty says. “The sky is the limit.”