LOUISVILLE — Students at Bellarmine University have started their own team of trained emergency medical technicians to provide care at campus events, joining about 300 similar programs around the country.
The EMS teams have already worked campus events, including the Irish Festival held at the school in September.
Former Bellarmine professor Joan Durso told The Courier-Journal that the idea came from watching students at Virginia Tech University provide medical care to victims of the massacre there in 2007. That spurred a conversation in a senior seminar at Bellarmine that led to forming a club for students to train as EMTs and become certified as CPR instructors, Durso said.
"We did it because the students took it on and made it their own project," she said.
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In forming the group, Bellarmine joined the University of Kentucky, Pikeville College School of Orthopedic Medicine and Kentucky Tech in Elizabethtown, as well as about 300 colleges around the country, said National Collegiate EMS Foundation President George Koenig.
Evan Kuhl, the Bellarmine program's student organizer and an EMT, said the growing university has "a huge number of people living in a close space. It's nice to be able to provide this kind of service."
Now the group is known as the Bellarmine Emergency Response Team and is a division of the school's public safety office. There are 10 students trained as EMTs, with three more to be added by January, Kuhl said. Louisville Metro EMS provides medical direction and support for the group.
All the students are unpaid volunteers and provide their own liability insurance. Student government and metro EMS have provided some funding for supplies.
Maj. Mike Will with Louisville Metro EMS said Durso approached him and asked whether it would be possible to train students as EMTs and start a service on Bellarmine's campus.
After initial skepticism, Will said, he has been impressed with the dedication of the students, who have developed a handbook and protocols for their service. Metro EMS can call the students should help be needed during an emergency off campus and have already ridden along during Kentucky Derby events.
"These folks are just so professional," Will said. "They want to learn. They want to help."
David Porta, an anatomy professor at Bellarmine and the new faculty adviser to the student EMTs, said the program will do a few events this semester and help with more of the school's athletic events after the first of the year. Ambulance service will still be contracted for certain big events, he said.
Dr. Neal Richmond, director of Metro EMS, said the students are now a valuable part of the city's available care.
"I'd love to see it happen on all the campuses in Louisville," said Richmond. "It'd be a great thing for the community."