Jing Jiang / Sun Senior Photographer

CUEMS in front of Klarman Hall.

March 4, 2021

Student First Responders: Cornell EMS Masks Up to Serve Ithaca

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On the front lines of medical aid, the student-run volunteer Cornell University Emergency Medical Service has worked on-call shifts through the pandemic, continuing to provide free round-the-clock emergency care to staff, students and visitors. 

The team of trained faculty, staff, undergraduates and graduate students respond to emergencies on Cornell property, acting on immediate concerns including “allergic reactions, alcohol or drug overdoses, motor vehicle accidents and everything in between,” according to Hannah Bukzin ’21, the director of operations. 

Although its function has remained the same throughout the pandemic, the organization has changed its procedures to follow social distancing guidelines while gearing up with safety goggles and N95 masks. 

Buzkin said volunteers wear additional equipment — including gowns and face shields — when patients are reported to have COVID-19. Still, emergency medical technicians are tested regularly, and most team members have received at least the first round of their COVID-19 vaccinations.

In a typical year, CUEMS responds to around 600 calls, said CUEMS director Lily Woolf ’21. Although call volumes have decreased since last year, Woolf said the crew is still responding to medical emergencies on campus and training their members. 

Woolf explained that, working with Tompkins County, CUEMS usually covers large-scale campus social and sporting events. The crew has also stayed during breaks to serve students who remain on campus. 

For new volunteer training, the organization has met a few Sundays each month over Zoom to discuss emergency practices. 

Woolf explained that these online meetings discuss various first responder medical procedures — including preparation for diabetic emergencies, how to treat burns and making splints — while in-person volunteers learn from mock scenarios.

Although CUEMS in-person training and classes for the community were out of operation last semester, the organization has experimented with hybrid courses for new members. They are also looking to revamp training opportunities this spring for groups outside of Cornell EMS. 

Salaiha Mughal ’22, the CUEMS community education officer, said that free in-person CPR and first aid classes will resume once a plan is in place for following University safety policies. 

CUEMS has also transitioned to promoting public health virtually, putting together programs for the larger Cornell community by teaching alcohol safety, COVID-19 practices and how dorm items can be used in emergency circumstances.

Tamara Kamis ’22 contributed reporting.