Medical Emergency Response Team kicks off Collegiate EMS Week

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By Breanne Medford
The Daily Pennsylvanian

Comprised of 50 Penn students, the fully certified EMTs respond to a variety of calls nightly around campus

Psychiatric emergencies, allergic reactions and chest pains — these are situations that the average student will only encounter in novels or textbooks, but members of Penn’s Medical Emergency Response Team may face these situations every week.

This week is Collegiate EMS Week, which kicked off on Monday with National Collegiate CPR Day. MERT members handed out flyers on Locust Walk "to encourage people to take our CPR class and become certified," College senior and MERT Community Outreach officer Kendra Hypolite said.

Comprised of 49 undergraduate students and one Penn Med student, MERT is not only responsible for teaching members how to save a life with CPR. The team responds to medical emergencies seven days a week, between 30th and Market to 43rd and Baltimore streets.

"We’re almost always first at the scene before the ambulance," College junior and Crew Chief and Equipment Officer Emma Kofmehl said.

"We don’t only answer drunk calls," Hypolite said. "Anyone who calls the emergency number within our area, we respond to that call — including people who aren’t affiliated with the University."

The number of calls MERT has received this year has increased dramatically since the last school year, according to Hypolite, who was unable to provide the exact number due to confidentiality agreements.

"There has been an increased focus RAs and GAs have had telling their residents who to call during an emergency," Hypolite said.

Kofmehl said a lot of students have been calling the number and Hypolite credits residential advisors and graduate advisors for "drilling it into their freshmen’s minds."

During New Student Orientation, first year Graduate School of Education student Trish Moran, who is a GA at Ware College House talked to the residents of her hall about MERT, making it clear that "you should call these people first."

Moran explained Penn’s medical amnesty policy to her residents on the second floor of Butcher-Chestnut, to prepare them for any emergencies.

"I’m so grateful that MERT has the knowledge and the resources to check out the student and make the tough call of transport," Moran said, calling MERT a "huge blessing."

Founded in April 2006, MERT team members must go through 180 hours of training before they can become certified by the state of Pennsylvania and serve as an EMT.

Students are fully certified EMTs, most of whom pass an additional test to travel around campus on bikes.

"The bike course involves learning about the bike, how to safely ride on the streets and the legal aspects of riding the bike as a vehicle," College sophomore and MERT Social Chair Maxwell Presser said.

During bike training, students maneuver through cone courses and learn how to ride their bikes up and down stairs, all while carrying 60 pounds of equipment.

MERT shifts begin at 5 p.m. and end at 7 a.m. the next day. Students are required to volunteer 24 hours every month and work with three other MERT members during their shifts, which can last through the night.

Students learn of incoming calls through radio alerts.

"When the radio goes off, your blood is pumping, heart is pounding and you’re ready to go," Presser said.

"It’s rewarding when you provide treatment for someone and their friend or RA/GA thanks you," he added.

"You learn valuable leadership skills and learn how to respond well under pressure," said Wharton senior and Bike EMT Patrick Coleman.

Most MERT members plan to pursue medicine, but others, such as Coleman, have alternate plans.

"It’s nice to give back and it’s a great volunteer opportunity on campus," he said.

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