UNC alumni Jimmy Petrongelli Jr. and Erica Scherer founded Campus EMS in 2017.
Four years later, on Oct. 14, the organization celebrated its inaugural shift as a first-responder agency to main campus medical emergencies.
Beyond the recently started 911 response, Campus EMS also provides different COVID-19 relief and campus outreach services, according to its website.
The co-directors of Campus EMS, senior Ishan Khosla and junior Sarah Torzone, worked to transition the organization to a first-responder agency after they joined during the 2019-20 school year.
Torzone said the founders and previous co-directors formed connections with Campus Health and Campus EMS Medical Director Dr. Joseph Grover, which laid the groundwork for what the organization is doing now.
"It's an incredible amount of work that goes into building a health care agency, because this is not a club," Torzone said. "We’re actually certified medical professionals providing health care to students, so there’s a lot of liability and budgets, and there’s so much that goes into it."
Torzone said UNC's Campus EMS was modeled after programs at other universities, such as Wake Forest University and Western Carolina University. Torzone said some EMS programs have a full ambulance and transport unit, while others use a Quick Response Vehicle, bike or golf cart.
UNC's Campus EMS uses a golf cart as its response vehicle, Torzone said, equipped with the same supplies as an ambulance.
“We wanted to walk before we ran, so we are going to be the first response in a golf cart,” Torzone said.
Torzone and Khosla served as the crew for the first shift on Oct. 14. With the crew, supplies and golf cart, Campus EMS is able to not only provide treatment, but also support the existing methods of emergency care.
"So a responding ambulance will already be coming to the scene anyway," Torzone said. "What we provide is a faster response time, being centrally located on campus and having our smaller response vehicle, we can fit in some of those tighter spaces and get to locations a little quicker."
Khosla said Campus EMS has 15 members. The program is extremely competitive, he said, and it had about 110 applicants for nine spots.
"A lot of really qualified EMTs have come in, but what we’ve done and what was really great about that application process is we had so many talented applicants that we were able to create this super diverse team that isn’t just great EMS providers, but also has experience in mental health awareness (and) disability awareness," Khosla said.
First-year member Sophia Dhrolia was part of the crew on the second shift the next night, during which a patient was transferred to an Orange County EMS ambulance to be taken to a hospital.
“The training here is really rigorous in order to be cut loose and actually run a call on your own,” Dhrolia said. “So I think me and my partner were really prepared in having to do not only the life-saving procedure, but also interact with the rest of the students and manage the rest of the scene.”
Campus Health keeps a shelf filled with bins of equipment to restock Campus EMS supplies and allows the organization to store its golf cart at the facility. According to its website, Campus EMS is funded by Campus Health and community donations.
“It's crazy to see University executives share the same dream as students do," Khosla said. "Sarah and I have had this dream for like almost three or four years now, and to have them side by side with us is truly inspiring."
In addition to support from Campus Health, Khosla said their partnership with Dr. Grover has been essential. Orange County EMS and the UNC Police Department have provided support as well, Khosla said.
He also said Orange County EMS supervisors were present for the first Campus EMS shift, talking to the crew to see how they could help.
“We had all these visions of how we were going to help, and to see how it all actually played out in real life is truly incredible,” Khosla said.
Khosla said Campus EMS is coordinating with Student Affairs for a fundraising campaign.
Campus EMS operates Thursday through Saturday from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. The organization will be operating with Orange County EMS for Halloween night, Torzone said.
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