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REMS to the rescue: Owls talk Collegiate EMS Week

Katherine Hui / Thresher

By Michelle Gachelin     11/15/22 10:32pm

From stubbed toes to life-threatening injuries, one group of dedicated students has seen it all. Throughout the past 26 years, Rice University Emergency Medical Services has rallied around the Rice community, providing support during natural disasters such as Winter Storm Uri and Hurricane Katrina and administering 4,372 vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic. For Collegiate EMS Week, which takes place during the second week in November, the organization hosted a series of events to increase their visibility and continue expanding their impact on campus. 

Among these events was a blood drive, held last Monday in PCF 1. According to Director Lisa Basgall, REMS was able to collect more than 70 units of blood from the 82 people who attended — since each unit can save up to five lives, their donations could potentially save 350 people.

Jay Mehta, REMS community relations lieutenant and one of eight InCharges — the REMS leadership team — said that the blood collected is much needed in light of recent shortages.

“In January, the Red Cross announced the worst nationwide blood shortage that we experienced in a decade … We’re still experiencing a blood shortage,” Mehta, a Brown College senior, said. “The blood that the Rice community has donated will go towards that, and that’s a very tangible good.” 

As community relations lieutenant, Mehta is responsible for coordinating events like those held last week, which also included free vital screenings by the Recreation Center, a trivia booth in the academic quad (“What’s the most popular medical TV show?”) and CPR training near Valhalla. Mehta said that CPR is a skill that anyone might need to perform at a given time.

“If someone’s heart stops, and they get chest compressions provided by a bystander, even if it’s for five minutes, that five minutes where they’re receiving compressions has a really big impact on their survival,” Mehta said.

Clearly, quick and quality care is crucial for first responders. Basgall, who has worked with REMS for 13 years, said that whether they are staffing anything from a college football game to a larger event, the organization ultimately hopes to provide the best patient care possible. 

“Every year is a little bit different with the people that volunteer with REMS, with the kinds of emergencies that we handle with the needs of the campus — large-scale things like the Centennial almost 10 years ago, or the presidential inauguration or the big NASA event … It’s amazing to see REMS grow with the number of people that are interested in volunteering,” Basgall said.

Angela Lin, a REMS InCharge who helped with the trivia event and uniform day, where members wear their REMS gear to increase visibility on campus, said that she’s been able to grow within the organization throughout her time there. 

“REMS is honestly the biggest part of my life at Rice, just because I spend so much time doing it,” Lin, a Sid Richardson College senior, said. “I feel very honored to be part of this community of serving not only the campus, but also serving the people who are in REMS and being able to teach them how to do their role and be a good part of the community.”

Mehta shared a similar experience, and said that volunteering with REMS has been one of the best parts of his undergraduate experience. 

“Being an InCharge has probably been one of the greatest privileges of my undergraduate career,” Mehta said. “I got to learn a very specialized skill set, and get very specific knowledge from the classes that I took, and then I got to use it to make a real difference every day in the Rice community.”

Mehta said that this fulfillment helps encourage him to persevere through difficult days on shift, and that he’s made some of his closest friends through REMS because they’re all like-minded people.

“Even when they’re really long days — one day I had eight calls and the day after I was super tired — [it’s] just the thought of knowing that I got to do something for someone else that might have made a bad situation for them slightly better,” Mehta said.

Mehta encouraged any interested students to try a first responder course if they’re interested in volunteering in REMS, regardless of their academic background.

“There’s this preconception that REMS is absolutely full of pre-meds,” Mehta said. “We’ve had people in REMS who ... have absolutely no intention of going into medicine. If you have any interest in joining REMS, and you’re motivated to contribute to the culture of care and make a difference on campus, I would recommend just jumping in.”

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