by Jacinda Legons
FSU's newly formed First Responders Unit is a much-welcomed branch of volunteer service. The initial idea was the brainchild of Richard Olexa, a junior.
"When Olexa came to my office and first told me his idea, I absolutely loved it," said Dr. Lesley Sacher, director of Thagard Student Health Student Health Center and advisor to the First Responders Unit. After visiting Emory University and seeing a similar program there, Olexa was inspired to bring his ideas home to Florida State. "We'll be part of the system of care on campus for students," said Olexa, the executive director.
Olexa, who is also highly committed to volunteer service, felt that a program that provided quick response health care to students, as well as incorporated the aspect of volunteer service for student participants, would be an ideal program for Florida State University.
Thagard Student Health Center, along with the FSU Police Department and the Student Government Association, collaborated to provide funding for the medical outreach program. "Each benefactor saw the immediate need for such a worthy program at FSU," Sacher said. With the funding and resources provided for the program, training, and adequate resources are not a problem for students volunteering in the program.
Thagard Director Lesley Sacher and Vice President for Student Affairs Winston Scott will congratulate the students who have been training for the past two semesters with the Tallahassee Fire Department at Tallahassee Community College. The students will receive certificates of completion, and members of the First Responders advisory board will receive certificates for the assistance and support they've provided throughout this academic year. FSU Police Chief Carey Drayton, a co-adviser for the group, also will speak at the reception.
Members of the volunteering unit are undergoing training at Florida State. Supplementary training will be at Tallahassee Community College. The semesterlong training at TCC will prepare members to become certified First Responders. In coming semesters the unit will receive additional training under the direction of Captain Nancy Herndon of the Tallahassee Fire Department. The students' training will allow them to respond to the urgent medical calls of other students by evaluating their problems and preparing them for transport from campus to a local hospital.
The inaugural class of the Volunteer First Responders Unit consists of 15 students, several of whom plan to enter career fields related to health care. Although many in the program study in health-related fields, Sacher said, the program is not exclusively for students planning to work in medicine.
What is most beneficial about the program is the leadership, communication and decision making skills that participants will gain from their experience with EMT," Sacher said.
Although the initial unit was formed as early as fall of 1999, the First Responders Unit will begin serving campus in a high capacity in 2002. The unit will be working at special university events and various student events on campus. The First Responders Unit will make its first major appearance at the Annual FSU Dance Marathon. The unit will be taking shifts throughout the event to ensure the safety of the participating students.
Sacher said the program will benefit the student volunteers and FSU. She feels that the program will give a stronger presence to Thagard and show students the strides that Thagard and Florida State are willing to make to ensure the best possible health care to students.