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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Health Occupation Students of America host life-saving CPR classes

Published: February 27, 2009
Section: Features

CPR: Priyanka Chilakamarri '11 administering chest compressions to a CPR mannequin. Brandeis club HOSA will host CPR classes March 2 and 4  from 7-10 p.m. in Lown Auditorium.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Chrissy Callahan/The Hoot</i>

CPR: Priyanka Chilakamarri '11 administering chest compressions to a CPR mannequin. Brandeis club HOSA will host CPR classes March 2 and 4 from 7-10 p.m. in Lown Auditorium.
PHOTO BY Chrissy Callahan/The Hoot

On a rainy Sunday afternoon over February break, four Brandeis students gathered in Lown Auditorium. As Priyanka Chilakamarri ’11 bent over the floor, she carefully administered chest compressions and rescue breaths to the CPR mannequin.

Certified cardiopulmonary resuscitation instructor Dan Saxe ’12 stood at a diagonal angle to Chilakamarri and watched closely, questioning her to assess the status of the situation. Soon after, Saxe stood behind Anushka Aqil ‘12, holding her in a chokehold and administering back-blows in an attempt to dislodge the imaginary object stuck in her throat.

Mat on the floor and instructional DVD in the auditorium’s computer, these members of the Health Occupations Students of America were deep in concentration in the midst of a six-hour preparation class for the upcoming CPR classes they’re offering next week.

HOSA, a chartered Brandeis club, is part of a national organization prominent in high schools and some colleges. Its mission, according to co-president Aqil, is to serve as a “gateway” for students interested in health occupations and to help provide them with resources such as internships.

HOSA’s interests are diverse and include providing career resources for students interested in respiratory therapy and medical assistants to certified nurse’s assistants and paramedics. As such, the activities they plan are multifaceted. “Part of this is volunteering, part of this is resources for those interested in health care careers and part of this is education for the general Brandeis community in everything from CPR to how to properly handle a drunk friend,” Saxe said.

In addition to serving as a resource for budding health professionals, HOSA exists to “get the campus just generally aware about healthcare and about healthy lifestyles,” Aqil said.

One of the club’s primary goals is making Brandeis a heart safe community. This designation depends on the number of people in the community who are trained in CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs; the number of AEDS accessible; and the campus’ proximity to medical care.

Next week, Saxe, who works for the Eascare Ambulance Service in Boston, will be teaching a CPR class for interested members of the Brandeis community.

The class, which is broken up into two three-hour sessions, will take place March 2 and 4 from 7-10 p.m. in Lown Auditorium and will cover primary care for life threatening injuries such as cardiac arrest and severe bleeding, and secondary care such as treatment for obstructed airways and first aid.

Saxe said the course will provide students with the tools necessary to “asses a scene for safety, call for help and assist responders once they arrive” and will include adult and child CPR/AED. If there is interest, he will also teach the infant section of CPR.

Taught under the standards of the American Red Cross and the approval of its Cambridge office, the course will cost $40 and $50 if the infant section is included.

For college students working as camp counselors, employees at ice cream shops or even the average person, knowledge of CPR is invaluable, Saxe said. “We’re active in the community and we’re young and capable of this,” he said.

With knowledge of life saving skills such as CPR and the use of AEDs, saving the lives of cardiac arrest patients is made that much more possible. Without early access to CPR, Saxe said, the survival statistics of instances of cardiac arrests are grim.

According to the American Heart Association, there are 250,000 deaths a year from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in the United States alone. CPR is a simple procedure that can increase survival rates of cardiac arrests by up to 60 percent. The AHA also predicts that increased access to AEDs could also save 50,000 lives each year.

If learning the tools to save a life wasn’t motivation enough, as an added incentive students completing the CPR course, including the infant section, will receive one-half of their required physical education graduation credits.

HOSA member Priyanka Chilakamarri ’11, also a member of the executive board of Brandeis’ Pre-Health Society, wants to pursue a career in health professions. She first joined HOSA during their national week last semester and attended some of their classes in an effort to become more aware.

“A lot of times I’m not knee-deep in the health professions so I’m not exposed to all the opportunities that I can get,” she said. “Through this organization I can also see what’s there and kind of spread [awareness].”

William-Bernard Reid-Varley ’09 founded HOSA two years ago. Last semester, the club took part in the national week of HOSA, hosting auctions on campus, welcoming a guest speaker and hosting a class in first aid.

In addition to the CPR classes and their charitable work, members of HOSA are working to form partnerships with certain clubs on campus such as Active Minds, a mental health awareness club run by Brandeis students, to expand their work.

The club has also recently started a partnership with Hope Lodge, a house in Boston where cancer patients and their families can live close to their treatment center for no fees except for food. Next year members hope to offer volunteer opportunities in Boston area hospitals.

“The club is still a baby and it needs to grow, and even though we don’t have 50 people in the club, we have about 10-15 really committed people and that makes the biggest difference,” Aqil said.

Those interested in signing up for the CPR class can email Aqil at .

If the statistics are any indication, Saxe said, learning CPR is an invaluable skill: “By training as many people as possible, we’re literally saving lives; the numbers are really amazing.”