Beginning when Survival Technological Company donated a single golf cart to the Department of Emergency Medicine to use as an EMS vehicle, Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service has grown exponentially. With over 100 active members, two ambulances and a mass-casualty response unit, GERMS operates 24/7 essentially all year, giving Georgetown students and residents free, confidential treatment and transport to surrounding hospitals.
While running about 1,000 calls per year, GERMS coordinates its own EMT class, provides ongoing education and training for its members and is about to establish a CPR training center. Needless to say, GERMS is a well-oiled, student-run machine.
This weekend, past and present members, administrators and supporters of GERMS will come together to celebrate 30 years of providing the Georgetown campus and surrounding community with emergency medical care. While GERMS is one of many organizations that embodies the Jesuit value of being men and women for others, it also serves as an example of how this motto shapes our campus and its students.
GERMS has long depended on the commitment and hard work of devoted members, dating back to its official founding by a group of students led by Robert Doherty (COL ’83, MED ’87) in 1982. From that point on, all logistics and operations have relied on student initiative supplemented by counsel from its medical director and faculty adviser. From the most basic operations, like partnering with the Department of Public Safety for dispatching services, to working with the university to acquire new ambulances when needed, students have continually pushed GERMS forward to keep up with — and often exceed — contemporary standards and practices of professional EMS organizations.
GERMS epitomizes how this core principle of men and women for others sparks the desire of Georgetown students to push themselves to their highest potentials. Much of the Georgetown community only interacts with members of GERMS in the case of an emergency. It doesn’t necessarily see that, when not running calls, GERMS is an organization that fosters education, personal growth and community.
While GERMS provides a hands-on glimpse into medicine for about half of the membership that is pre med, the organization also offers countless leadership opportunities in a variety of areas.Whether leading emergency calls, designing the website, managing the office or giving advice to younger members, those in GERMS have the chance to be a part of an empowering community united in its commitment to serve others. Bound by the love of helping others and the inevitable rapport established after running countless back-to-back calls late into the night, members come to depend on one another’s support, as well as finding role models in the people whom they also consider their closest friends. In trying to ensure that the organization gives Georgetown the best emergency care possible, students become more confident and self assured. This supportive yet challenging structure is one of the main reasons GERMS has continued to thrive 30 years after its founding.
It is an honor to have worked with so many selfless individuals, many of whom ride over 40 hours a week and hold administrative positions in the organization on top of a full class schedule. We are in the practice of saving lives, and there is no greater reward than that. Even on calls that are less serious — even especially ones in which the patient opts not to go to the hospital — we leave knowing that we have at least dissuaded his or her fears during a sometimes overwhelming experience. Being part of such a strong tradition of student leadership, community and service has forever changed me, just as those who have come before us have changed GERMS in modeling men and women for others.
KATE MCCLELLAN is a junior in the College. She is director of public relations for GERMS.