By Ray Liu
About 10 years ago, the University turned down a proposal from the Undergraduate Assembly to establish a Penn ambulance service.
Despite the fact that the initiative was unanimously supported by the UA, the plan had several problems, including the high cost of running a fully stocked and certified ambulance, and the fact that the Philadelphia Fire Department offered the same service.
This year, however, a group of Penn students have come up with a new plan, which the UA has again supported unanimously.
Also known as the Medical Emergency Response Team -- or MERT -- initiative, this plan calls for an organization composed of emergency medical technicians and firefighters, some of whom are certified in other forms of life support.
Stating that the Philadelphia Fire Department has limited resources, MERT hopes to complement these official services by arriving at the scene of an on-campus emergency within minutes to begin treatment on a patient.
"The UA and the administration are working closely with us to assure that the... proposal is developed in a fashion that will be conducive to a long-term cooperative relationship between the city, the University and the students of MERT," College freshman Andrew Mener -- who is also a certified EMT and American Heart Association basic cardiac life support instructor -- wrote in an e-mail statement.
"We are currently doing more research on other colleges that offer similar services," he added, mentioning that "many schools, such as Brown and Columbia, have similar first response systems."
And although past proposals at Penn have met roadblocks, Columbia University Emergency Response Team members boast a strong relationship with their university administration.
"We were founded in 1962, when students responded to a situation where a dean was shot," Columbia University Emergency Medical Service Director and Columbia College junior Jordan Brafman said. "We have a wonderful relationship with our administration and work with our Health Services and Security departments."
"We recently became available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and respond to approximately 700 calls per year," he said.
Mener and College sophomore Paul Mattus -- who is a firefighter and Emergency Medical Services attendant for the Camp Hill Fire Department in Pennsylvania -- are leading the effort to establish MERT at Penn.
The two are hoping that MERT will ultimately be able to extend its operating hours until coverage is available around the clock, like the situation at Columbia.
In addition, MERT is looking to identify other EMTs on campus and is investigating the option of offering an EMT course at Penn next semester.
Any students who wish to volunteer for this effort should contact either Mener or Mattus by e-mail.
Organizers plan to bring MERT under University review after formalizing their proposal.