FUEMS Looks Back on 40 Years of Service


As FUEMS celebrates its 40th year of operation, they look forward to a new ambulance and increased participation. (Mary Alice Brodowski for The Fordham Ram)

As FUEMS celebrates its 40th year of operation, they look forward to a new ambulance and increased participation. (Mary Alice Brodowski for The Fordham Ram)
As FUEMS celebrates its 40th year of operation, they look forward to a new ambulance and increased participation. (Mary Alice Brodowski for The Fordham Ram)

By Alex Brennan 

Emergency services at Fordham University started with fanny packs with simple medical supplies, according to Heather Cahill, FCRH ’18 and chief of Fordham University Emergency Medical Services.

Times have changed.

“Now we have over a hundred members and two ambulances stocked with medications, medical supplies and medical equipment,” said Cahill.

Fordham University Emergency Medical Services (FUEMS) celebrates its 40th year of service to the Fordham community. Since its conception, the way in which the organization has been run has certainly changed, but the main goal remains: students helping students.

This is the notion that Catherine Maccaro, FCRH ’17, FUEMS member and vice president of Health and Security for United Student Government, believes FUEMS embodies. She said the Fordham mantra, “men and women for others,” is the objective of the staff who work tirelessly to help their fellow peers. However, the manner of operation, even the name FUEMS, was not what the student body knows today.

Fordham student medical aid began with a student-run emergency medical service on campus called Student Emergency Responders Group (SERG), started by Bruce Medleka, CBA ’79, in 1977, according to Natalie Sturgeon, FCRH ’17 and director of FUEMS. However, the university did not view the organization as an official Emergency Medical Services (EMS), so they operated out of a station wagon.
“When SERG was founded, emergency medical response within the Bronx was extremely slow,” said Cahill. “After the death of a visiting faculty member, the need for emergency medical services on campus was more than evident.”

No university recognition meant they could only respond to calls from students and attend to them until alternate services arrived. They could not take them to the hospital themselves.

Eventually, SERG began attracting Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), and the club grew larger. On October 4th, 1988, the New York Department of Health certified the club, which allowed them to purchase an ambulance. The growth of EMTs on staff and the certification by the state resulted in Fordham’s acknowledgement of the club as an official EMS organization. becoming “FUEMS.”

Additionally, the crews used to only require two EMTs during shifts. Now, there are typically three on shift. Furthermore, there has been an addition of a student attendant to the shifts. The student attendant is someone who is not certified as an EMT by New York state, but watches to gain experience and see, first hand, how the EMTs handle emergency situations.

Originally, there were not enough EMTs for FUEMS to operate on a 24-hour basis. However, about four or five years ago, there were enough people to create a “day staff”, officially making FUEMS a 24/7 emergency service. The schedule for the day staff is completely different from the weekend and night shifts; students cannot work an hour and a half before class, which makes the schedule very complicated.

Despite that, student involvement has never been higher. “Every year we get a larger amount of interest,” said Maccarro.

While the FUEMS staff welcomes new students, it has led them to make some changes. For example, they created a new position so that students can get shifts in before January. However, this increase has only led to more excitement amongst FUEMS members. For instance, Sturgeon said 247 students signed up at the club fair.

Cahill said that due to Emergency Aid Training hosted on Fordham’s campus, they are able to certify between 60 and 80 members each year as New York State Certified Emergency Medical Technicians on the Basic Level.

Cahill said FUEMS has “changed exponentially” over its 40 years of service.

“FUEMS has made a lot of stride within the past few years alone, with the addition of some new medications and the expansion of parts of our scope of practice,” said Cahill.

Cahill said FUEMS currently has two ambulances in service, with a brand new one arriving this week to replace one of the older ambulances.

“We are hoping to be able to expand our fleet and our services in the new future,” said Cahill.

Although FUEMS is not exactly the institution created in 1977, it has achieved the goals that Medleka originally had for the club, and the staff will celebrate those accomplishments throughout the year. For example, there is an annual dinner to thank Public Safety, the doctors at St. Barnabas and alumni. This year, they plan to have the 40th anniversary be the focus of the dinner, making it a bigger celebration than it has ever been before. Additionally, there is a barbecue in the works to commemorate the organization’s milestone with the Fordham community.