In Brief: “Emergency Calls: A Communities Reply”
“As an undergraduate at Sewanee: The University of the South, I served as a volunteer emergency medical technician. This relationship to emergency medicine caused me to question the ways emergency medical ambulatory services function elsewhere. From the most urban to most rural environments around the world, how do these medical services operate, establish trust, provide security, and ensure well-being for the individuals who depend on them?”
Above is what you will find on the Watson Foundation Website, and if I had to have an ‘elevator speech,’ then this would be it. In the broadest of visions, this is my project. How do the roles of different ambulatory services impact the communities they serve? If you would like to read in more detail…check out the background and core ideas behind my project below!
I can pinpoint two places where this idea originated for me. The first was my on an University Outreach Trip to Quito, Ecuador over spring break of freshman year. It had been 5 days since I had tried out for the Sewanee Emergency Medical Service and we had just landed in Quito. En route to our hostel for the week, an ambulance raced past our bus. My mind quickly darted to the interior of that truck: who was inside, what was the story that brought this patient here, how well is the ambulance stocked with supplies, what about the men and women who are working hard inside, what about the families and friends left at the scene? All of these questions poured through my head. I wanted to know them all. I wanted to know the larger story, the one that connects the dots from start to finish. The second time my project idea began to take shape was on a cool October morning my sophomore year. Piercing through the air, the high-tone of my SEMS pager rang out the call for a vehicular collision on the adjacent highway. Bursting out of my dorm room, half-dressed, I threw on my jumpsuit and hopped into the back of Sewanee Ambulance 418. Minutes later, we arrived on scene, weaved through backed up traffic and a myriad of blue and red lights from the surrounding police and fire engines, only to place what was once a warm, vibrant life inside a black bag and drive back to the hospital. We returned; I showered; I went to class. On that cool October morning, I looked around at my peers and was struck with a humbling sense of gratitude. There was security in knowing that direct and rapid emergency care was at their fingertips if such an occasion ever arose. In the time following, I was consistently reminded of this moment. Everything I did or witnessed others do circled back to the idea that if we were hurt, or in need of medical care due to an emergency, that it would come, without hesitation.
It wasn’t until that hard October day when I was able to add direction to those questions I had asked the previous year in Ecuador. For a while, these questions sat with me. Very helicopter overhead or new destination with sirens passing by, I always wondered what the story behind that specific call was. As I got older I learned of the Watson Fellowship and the opportunity it provided for graduating students to take a year of purposeful study. Without hesitation, I knew what my project had to be. I had a place where I could take all these questions swimming in my head and put them to action.
During my year on the Watson, I plan to explore how emergency medical ambulatory services function internationally, and further observe how the results of such care affect the surrounding communities they serve. Human nature is closely centered around the well-being of oneself and of those close to them. We are wired to care for each other; however, this world still holds so many places where a community lacks the ability to deliver proper care. This lack creates a point of disruption within a community, which reduces the community’s sense of well being, and also the trust the community holds. Without a sound foundation of trust and wellbeing, a community struggles to grow and prosper. Furthermore, a large contributor to this sense of wellbeing and trust is rooted in medical care’s reliability, service, and success. Primarily, I am seeking to learn the ways in which different countries and cultures respond to emergency situations and to observe the ways in which the communities within these countries and cultures respond. I hope to not only document these observations, but actively participate in the ambulatory services. During my time away, I plan to travel to Denmark, Chile, Thailand, and Tanzania, spending three months in each location.
In each place I travel, I plan to get in touch with the various ambulatory services and emergency departments; however, my time in these places only serve as part of my exploration. I plan to use my other time to engage in the heart of my proposal, which is the community: who they are, their feelings about their local ambulatory services, their typical responses in emergency situations, etc. All of these questions will involve direct engagement within the community rather than work stationed at a hospital or emergency services station. A community’s relationship to emergency medicine is also centered around culture and tradition, and all are unique, carrying with them their own history. As integrated as the world is becoming, culture within countries and geographical regions remains unique and distinct. Emergency medical services are but one of many organizations I believe are influenced by culture. I look forward to seeing how culture influences medical practice and decisions, and how it also has implications on the way different communities respond to various situations.
My time with the Watson Fellowship promises to be exciting, a little unknown, and certain to provide more than one detour along the way; however, I plan to take each in stride, understanding that plans change, as do I. I believe that this experience, though challenging, will not only illuminate the unique differences between emergency medicine in various countries, but also highlight the relationship that this culture holds to the communities they serve. Though I hope to grow personally through a year with the Watson, I ultimately aspire to engage in meaningful work within these communities that have lasting effects on communal well being.