Mustang EMS works to certify students, teach life-saving knowledge

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Mustang EMS President Ryan McKee watches as students practice performing CPR. Photo credit: Christina Cox

Five years ago, Zac Friske (’14) had a vision of creating a student-led emergency response team serving students, faculty, staff and administrators on SMU’s campus. Now, several years later, the idea has grown to an organization with more than 30 general members that is aptly named “Mustang Emergency Medical Services (MEMS).”

“Mustang EMS is SMU’s emergency medical service organization on campus. So we strive to teach students more about emerging medicine and provide different volunteer opportunities,” SMU junior and MEMS President Ryan McKee said.

The organization’s goal is to provide efficient and effective training to SMU students, and broader educational and professional services to the SMU community.

McKee and senior Kaycee Smith, who are both pre-med students at SMU, lead MEMS. At their Boulevard tent on game days, MEMS members aim to teach attendees the signs and symptoms of heart attack, stroke, and alcohol poisoning, and how one should act in response to these emergencies.

Currently, MEMS’ primary focus is certifying students in CPR/AED response (cardio-pulmonary response and automated external defibrillator).

According to Lee Arning, executive director of Emergency Preparedness and staff advisor to MEMS, the organization has certified 38 students in CPR/AED response in less than one year. And that number is still growing.

“We’re on pace this year to do double that or more,” McKee said. “Hopefully over 48 people this year will be certified.”

McKee and Smith hope the certification program will help potentially save lives.

“Dallas’ CPR survival rate is about 8 percent right now,” Smith said. “We are hoping that by teaching CPR, we can bump that number up.”

With funding help from Student Senate, MEMS has reduced the financial barriers of running a CPR training program by purchasing training devices to expand course sizes and is offering several courses a semester to students and staff at a low cost of $10.

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Students watch an instructional video from the American Heart Association and practice on CPR dummies. Photo credit: Christina Cox

“Normal CPR class involves Kaycee Smith and I going through the American Heart Association video and demonstrating the different techniques to perform effective CPR,” McKee said.

One student found the lesson invaluable after she found herself having to administer CPR this summer without the knowledge of how to do it. McKee said 911 dispatchers guided her to perform hands-only CPR over the phone, but unfortunately the individual did not make it. Since the experience, she had been searching for ways to get CPR-certified.

“She expressed her gratitude for the Mustang EMS CPR program, and I could sense a huge shift in this individual’s level of confidence after she received her certification,” McKee said.

Mustang EMS leaders believe this story is an example of the campus’ need for programs like CPR certification.

“[This is] an example of how our students are making a difference in being prepared,” Arning said.

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Students practice performing mouth-to-mouth on CPR dummies. Photo credit: Christina Cox

Smith chose to become a Mustang EMS CPR instructor after she attended an EMT certification program her freshmen year. During one of her training rotations on an ambulance, Smith said she encountered a call that involved a patient who required CPR.

“That moment served as my motivation for applying,” she said.

At the time, the Mustang EMS executive board was looking to develop a CPR program on campus. With the help of Engaged Learning project funds, Smith was able to become an American Heart Association CPR instructor. Arning said two MEMS captains have completed Engaged Learning Projects.

“In addition to the mission of Mustang EMS, this student organization has also served as the platform for building their pre-med resumes while at the same time using those Engaged Learning Project grants to execute the project,” Arning said.

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Mustang EMS Captain Kaycee Smith prepares CPR dummies before class. Photo credit: Christina Cox

McKee joined MEMS three years ago during Night at the Club. He said the organization has undergone tremendous growth during his time at SMU.

“Through various events and outreach programs I believe we’ve generated a real interest among SMU students in learning valuable, potentially life-saving skills, and about emergency medicine in general,” he said.

The ultimate goal for Mustang EMS is to become a completely student-run response organization — a vision shared by McKee, Friske and other Mustang EMS leaders. In order for this to happen, McKee said legal issues must be resolved beforehand.

“Other universities have organizations like that with completely student-run emergency response teams,” he said. “I don’t see it happening during my time here, but hopefully down the road it can happen.”

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