Carnegie Mellon University
March 31, 2023

Student EMTs Answer the Call

By Kirsten Heuring

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

Ankle injuries are common on a college campus. But for Ysabel Li, leading her first response to an ankle industry as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) was memorable.

"I needed to make sure I was asking all the right questions, that the patient was comfortable, and that vitals and history-taking were delegated to other members of my crew, all while communicating with my supervisor," said Li, a senior in the Department of Chemistry. "At that time, I was really proud of how I handled the call and made sure the patient got the care they needed."

Li volunteers for Carnegie Mellon University Emergency Medical Service (CMU EMS). CMU EMS is a student-run volunteer EMT service that responds to all emergency medical calls on campus. As the training officer, Li leads weekly drills for all EMS members and organizes mass casualty incident drills each semester that Pittsburgh EMS officials attend. CMU EMS also holds on-demand CPR/AED certification classes for anyone in the campus community through the American Heart Association.

Being a peer responding to a student in an emergency can make a huge difference.

"There's a lot of understanding and empathy," said Astha Tripathi, a senior in Biological Sciences and the chief of the EMS Executive Board. "Understanding the student perspective is something that's really been valuable in the conversations that I have. It's a completely different experience for our patients to have someone who knows what campus resources are available to them."

EMS includes 50 students from all seven of Carnegie Mellon's schools and colleges. Students from all disciplines are welcome and encouraged to join.

"We are in service because students dedicate their time and efforts to do so," Tripathi said. "I've loved the dedication and the passion that our group has."

Li and Tripathi started as part of CMU EMS in fall 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed them from completing their EMT certification courses, which can cost over $1000.

Tripathi finished her certification in the fall of 2020, and Li wrapped up her certification in the fall of 2021. That year, Eugene Yoon, a first-year student studying biological sciences, joined the team. Yoon said that as a member of the CMU community, he wanted to find a way to help make the biggest impact possible.

"Being able to give the necessary treatment and making the right call for patients makes me feel like I'm contributing a lot to the community," said Yoon. As operations officer, he budgets and purchases medical supplies for CMU EMS. 

Ysabel Li practices bandaging a wound on Eugene Yoon.

Li, Tripathi and Yoon are also members of the Carnegie Mellon Health Professions Program (HPP), which provides advising resources for all Carnegie Mellon students and alumni interested in pursuing a career in a health profession, regardless of major.

Li, Tripathi and Yoon all regularly respond to calls. As leaders, all of them said they want students to know that they are available to help, no matter how big or small the medical concern.

"A lot of times on calls, we can tell that the patient is a bit nervous, like they're not sure if they should have called," Li said. "They might think that the call was too minor for an EMS response, but a large part of our role is to reassure our patients that their concerns are valid."

Along with staffing a standby crew for larger campus events, CMU EMS also offers training for all members of the CMU community. During events such as Spring Carnival or first-year orientation, the student organization holds walk-up Bystander CPR training sessions, so students and faculty outside the organization can learn what to do in the case of a cardiac arrest.

As one of the younger officers of CMU EMS, Yoon said he is optimistic about the future of the organization.

"I hope it continues growing," Yoon said. "It's gained traction throughout the past few years, and I'm really glad to see a lot of people having passion to give back to the community."