When emergencies occur on Lehigh’s campus, those responding may be members of the community themselves. In addition to Bethlehem Emergency Medical Service, the Lehigh University Emergency Medical Services (LUEMS), a team of student first responders, works to provide efficient care to those in need.
“It’s really interesting seeing how the entire Bethlehem community works together to make the fastest emergency medical care that we students can rely on,” EMT Gabriella Puchall, ‘23, said.
LUEMS has provided rapid medical assistance to students, faculty, staff and the Bethlehem community since the 1990s.
Licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, LUEMS is a quick response service on call 24 hours a day while classes are in session.
According to their website, LUEMS averages a six-minute response time when attending to a medical emergency. This is nine minutes less than the City of Bethlehem’s ambulances, which may take up to 15 minutes to arrive on campus.
Out of the 132 total calls LUEMS received in 2021, the website reads that about 53% were arrived at within six minutes or less, and 82% of all calls were arrived at within nine minutes or less.
Captain Rose Denommee, ‘24, said she is in charge of overseeing the organization’s operations and ensuring all members are working to keep the community safe.
Denommee said she loves the balance between being a student and having the opportunity to work with LUEMS.
“It has truly improved my clinical skills and further solidified my aspirations to pursue my journey to medical school,” Denommee said.
She said the job can be stressful, especially when she receives many calls during a shift, but she is grateful for the work.
Denommee said she is on call for a 24-hour shift beginning Thursday at 8 a.m., and she has a rotating shift on the weekend, where she works for another 24 hours.
“Being on call has become a mentality,” Denommee said. “I make conscious efforts to get all of my work done and get sleep between calls. It has become second nature and allowed me to get things done.”
Denommee said having to devote so much of her time to the organization has made her improve her time management and organizational skills.
Cyrus Elmi, ‘24, has been a part of LUEMS for three years. He said being dispatched during the night can be a challenge as a student.
“Waking up in the middle of the night is a little difficult, but you know what you have to do and that you’re being beneficial to the community,” Elmi said.
According to the LUEMS website, the most common calls they receive pertain to general illnesses, fainting, falls, traumatic injuries and allergic reactions.
However, Elmi said there is always a sense of uncertainty when arriving at a call.
“You never know what you’re going to get into when dispatched and you have to be prepared for some unusual things,” Elmi said.
Despite the unknown, he said he enjoys being able to support his peers in times of need.
Puchall said the most important skill that LUEMS has taught her is how to quickly handle stressful situations.
“It’s so important to keep calm and address these situations,” Puchall said. “It’s a really great lifelong skill for everyone to have.”
Puchall plans to continue being an EMT after graduating, as she is on the pre-medical track and enjoys gaining this hands-on experience.
LUEMS works closely with the Lehigh University Police Department (LUPD). When LUEMS receives a call, Puchall said LUPD is also immediately called to the scene.
In some cases, Puchall said LUPD and LUEMS will have to determine if an outside ambulance or the Bethlehem police is needed.
LUEMS has a station located on Asa Drive at the bottom of campus, which Puchall said allows student LUEMS members to wait and relax while on daytime shifts.
When classes overlap with a daytime shift, Puchall said she has to attend class dressed in her uniform.
Emily Newman, ‘24, said LUEMS encourages students across all majors to apply to the program and no prior experience is required, although a student can only be in the organization for two semesters without an EMT certification.
“Many students in LUEMS are on the pre-med track, but that definitely doesn’t mean you have to be,” Newman said. “(I) am not on the premed track, but I still love LUEMS.”
Newman said there are 68 active members of LUEMS, 17 of whom are active EMTs. Within those 68 members, there are multiple positions to which anyone can apply.
There are explorers, who need a CPR certification; trained EMTs; and crew chiefs, who are EMTs who are trained to oversee the whole organization.
Newman said LUEMS also helps students become CPR and EMT certified.
Students can apply to the program on their website.