College EMS Crew Saves Professor, Gimmicky Ambulances and Living Wage Increases for San Diego EMS

Issue 2 and Volume 41.


Duke University student EMS crew

Photo courtesy Paul Grantham/Duke University

When beloved Duke University associate professor of markets and management studies George Grody suddenly lost consciousness and became pale during a marketing club meeting, students in the classroom knew exactly where to get help.

They grabbed three students from the library who volunteer with the school’s student-run EMS crew. They immediately recognized Grody was suffering from cardiac arrest and two volunteer EMTs began CPR compressions while the third ran to fetch an automated external defibrillator (AED) from the Duke EMS ambulance. During the shuffle, a fourth student EMS volunteer heard the situation and notified local EMS and fire departments.

The students were able to get Grody’s heartbeat back on the third shock, which is when first responders arrived and took him to a hospital. Grody is now recovering after heart bypass surgery, and responders say it was a good thing that he stayed late that day for the meeting because he lives by himself and may not have gotten the critical care he needed.

We give a thumbs up to Kristen Bailey, Kirsten Bonawitz, Ritika Patil and Kevin Labagnara—the four Duke EMS students whose dedication to learning emergency medicine has already saved a life. Their expertise combined with the other students’ quick alert of the situation helped make all the difference.


Most emergency medical professional will tell you they’re in it for the money, mostly because for many there isn’t a lot of money to be made by becoming an EMT. But one city is changing that by making strides in paying medics a livable wage.

San Diego officials are working on closing a 10-year-old loophole that excludes EMTs and paramedics from the city’s living wage law. If the law is fixed, it could boost hourly pay for medics by as much as $4 an hour.

Certain contract workers such as lawyers and engineers were excluded from the law when it was drafted because they typically make more than minimum wage. However, that clearly hasn’t been the case with the city’s EMS providers, and lawmakers are now saying that the exemption isn’t in the “spirit of the law.”

A representative from American Medical Response, the company that runs San Diego’s ambulance service, said they’re willing to work with unions to get the law changed. Officials are working to see if the pay changes can be implemented immediately or if it must wait until the contract ends in 2018. Meanwhile, the city council is still in the process of voting to close the loophole, but it’s already cleared two council votes.

We give a big thumbs up to San Diego for recognizing ways it can better serve its tireless EMT community and for moving swiftly on an effective solution. We encourage continued collaboration between the city and AMR to close the loophole. We also hope that cities and communities around the country follow suit and see the need to evaluate their minimum wage laws to decrease the need for medics to work grueling overtime hours.


Ambulance converted to mobile confessional

After receiving a donated ambulance, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette, La., decided to use it for a different purpose. They transformed the ambulance into a “mobile confessional” in which people can confess their sins to a traveling priest. Bins that would usually hold bandages and lifesaving medications now house bibles and holy water. A father from the church said they plan to bring the ambulance to large local events such as tailgating and concerts.

This isn’t the first time an ambulance has been used for nonmedical purposes— social media users may recall a picture of the “Winebulance,” a wine delivery service that uses a refurbished ambulance to give people wine in times of so-called “emergency.”

We at JEMS give a thumbs down to these unorthodox uses of emergency vehicles that confuse the public, particularly when red warning lights are left on the vehicles and encourage the public to not take EMS seriously, which can be detrimental in times of actual emergencies. We also oppose bringing fake ambulances to places with large crowds where civilians may need to actually seek out medical help and instead get confused by a fraud.

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