Emory Emergency Medical Services wins top regional honors

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | June 8, 2015

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Rising senior Morgan Taylor won EMT of the Year for the region and Emory Emergency Medical Services was named EMS of the Year. Both were competing against professional services from the metro Atlanta area.

Emory Emergency Medical Services (EEMS), the university's student-operated, volunteer emergency medical services provider, earned top honors at the Georgia Region III Emergency Medical Services banquet, garnering awards for EMS Service of the Year and EMT of the Year.

The Region III awards are presented to EMS professionals and programs in eight counties throughout the metro-Atlanta region. Among the state’s busiest EMS and trauma divisions, Region III handles more than 50 percent of EMS calls in Georgia, says Emory EMS Director Rachel Barnhard.

"I think this is recognition that we’re doing a lot of things right and working really hard to be an exemplary service," she says.

"Instead of simply running calls, we’re also doing things that are considered the gold standard of EMS, from how we review our calls to the equipment we carry."

Operated under the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Office of EMS and Trauma, Region III encompasses paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), EMS educators and managers, and other health care practitioners from hospitals and governmental organizations.

Included among the honorees at last month’s awards banquet:

  • EMS Service of the Year — Emory EMS
  • EMT of the Year — Morgan Taylor, a rising Emory senior pursuing a chemistry major and applied math minor who will serve as chief of EEMS in 2015-2016.
  • Medical Director of the Year — Alex Isakov, executive director of Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR), and associate professor and director of the Department of Emergency Medicine’s Section of Prehospital and Disaster Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.

Being honored amid a field of full-time professional EMS programs was especially meaningful to members of the student-operated service — the only university-based emergency medical service in Georgia, Barnhard says.

"When you talk about services in metro Atlanta, that includes all the EMS agencies, fire departments or anyone else who runs emergency medical calls in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale counties — this is the big league," she says.

Students earn regional recognition

Although EEMS has won national recognition among collegiate-level peer services, this marks the first time the program has garnered top recognition among other professional EMS programs in Georgia, Barnhard notes.

"We’ve been working very hard over the past five or six years to be better integrated with EMS programs in Georgia — that’s part of why we’re so excited about these awards," she says.

Founded in 1992, EEMS is a unit of the Uniform Division of the Emory University Police Department and is widely considered a national leader in collegiate EMS programs, according to Barnhard.

The volunteer force of about 40 licensed Advanced EMTs is composed almost exclusively of undergraduate students, who provide round-the-clock EMS coverage for the campus and adjacent roads and businesses when the university is in session.

EEMS team members typically apply to join the unit as freshmen or sophomores. "We usually have twice the amount of applicants as we have seats available," Barnhard says.

At their own expense, prospective candidates must take a year-long, not-for-credit Emory EMT course, where they are required to complete more than 400 hours of classroom and clinical training, learning everything from the medical and legal aspects of patient care to providing first-line care for trauma.

Once licensed as Advanced EMT professionals, most will go on to volunteer for Emory EMS. Applications are now being accepted for the Fall 2015 Emory EMT course, which is open to Emory students, alumni and affiliates.

Isakov receives state service award

In separate statewide honors, Isakov also received the prestigious Dr. Zeb L. Burrell Jr., MD, Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contributions toward the enhancement of pre-hospital emergency medical care in the state of Georgia.

The award was presented by the Georgia Association of Emergency Medical Services during an annual EMS Awards banquet held last month. The award recognizes Isakov’s work with the Emory University Hospital Serious Communicable Disease Unit and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop education, training, policies and procedures for "excellent patient care, while ensuring the safety of the paramedic treatment team and the general public," according to press release distributed by National EMS.

Both the state and the Region III awards were presented in acknowledgement of Isakov’s leadership and commitment to the development of the Grady EMS Biosafety Transport Team, which handled ground transportation and pre-hospital care for the first patient to be treated for the Ebola virus disease in the U.S.

Subsequently, Isakov and his team managed ground transport for three more patients with confirmed Ebola virus disease to Emory University Hospital. 

In the press release, National EMS noted that Isakov’s "expertise in this area has not only improved EMS capabilities in our region and state, but also nationally."