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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

BEMCo: Brandeis life support

Published: November 5, 2010
Section: News

Every hour of the week, Seth Merker ’11 and Daniel Saxe ’12 are on call, responsible for the health and well-being of all Brandeis community members.

Both Clinical Supervisors on the Executive Board of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo), Merker, the director, and Saxe, the director of operations ,take turns covering 24-hour shifts seven days of the week.

Even with a slight increase in the number of calls this year, to 120 as of Wednesday, BEMCo, has maintained an average response time of less than two minutes, according to a call statistics sheet.

The two students face a challenging responsibility—serving as medical caretakers for the students that they see on campus every day.

Although only 27 of the 120 calls this year have been due to alcohol or drugs, their perspective when providing medical assistance to intoxicated students is different from other EMTs.

“We’re dealing with people we’re going to be sitting next to in class,” Merker said.

“We’re unique among college EMS services in that we work so hard to protect students,” Merker said.

When responding to a call of an intoxicated student, Merker explained that although police are present, “we work hard to keep it a solely medical call.”

Saxe said that the relationship between BEMCo and the Department of Public Safety allows for EMTs to provide medical care for intoxicated students without them fearing the consequences and penalties of intoxication.

“We’re extremely privileged to have the close relationship with Public Safety that we do,” Saxe said.

Although Merker and Saxe meet regularly with Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan and Dr. Debra Poaster from the university health center, they operate on their own with Callahan serving as an advisor.

Yet he stressed that although they are students, all BEMCo EMTs conduct themselves professionally.

Both Merker and Saxe have outside experience as EMTs in cities like New York and Boston and all students in BEMCo must pass three rounds of practical and written exams before becoming certified EMTs.

There are class, state and BEMCO exams to complete before joining the ambulance corps.

Saxe explained that when responding to a call, BEMCo can call for an ambulancs from a city or towns to transport a student to the hospital.

Although the ambulance corps has transported students to local hospitals in the past, it currently does not.

If a student does not need advanced life support, he or she may be transported to a local hospital by the university police.

“It’s a lot of responsibility but we try really hard because we’re students and we understand,” Merker said.

Of the 27 alcohol or drug-related calls this year, 16 students required transports to the hospital.

Nine of those calls came on Oct. 23, the night of Pachanga, a bi-annual dance sponsored by the International Club on campus.

Although Saxe and Merker noted the increase in the number of calls this year, they did not identify a significant increase in the number of alcohol or drug-related cases.

In response to the incidents last month, University President Jehuda Reinharz announced the creation of a new committee to study alcohol and drug abuse on campus.

Merker will serve as one of two students on the 13 member committee, which also consists of faculty, staff and administrators.

Merker and Saxe declined to comment on the specifics of any incidents that took place that night, citing HIPPA, or health and medical record privacy laws that force EMT services to maintain patient confidentiality.

“We take confidentiality exceedingly seriously,” Merker said.

Saxe said that he rose quickly through the ranks of BEMCo from a new member to a crew chief, or primary.

Crew chiefs typically have extensive experience as an EMT both on and off campus, Merger said.

Both Saxe and Merker now hold more responsibility as supervisors, describing their role as a “safety net for the crew chiefs.”

They noted that in contrast to their work as EMTs in cities, at Brandeis, although outside resources and care are always available, more often they end up having to treat cases and situations that arise without outside help.

The Executive Board of BEMCo consists of four other students, including Administrator Kassandra Gibbs ’12, Treasuerer Jordan Caruso ’11, Training Officer Steven Afrow ’12 and Secretary Evan Rosenberg ’11.

In total BEMCo has about 65 EMTs.

Saxe said that he takes pride in the care BEMCo provides for the community and the trust it gains from students.

“For students. By students. We are advocates,” Saxe said.

He explained that serving as a director of BEMCo is above all, a form of service to the Brandeis community.

“We can’t expect to be responsible for the larger world until we are responsible for our community.”