Contact: Dennis Russell, 581-4017; George Manlove, 581-3756
ORONO — The University of Maine’s Voluntary Ambulance Corps (UVAC)recently received an upgraded competency rating from a consortium ofemergency care and health organizations in Maine, recognizing the30-year-old service for its advancement.
The Maine Center for Disease Control’s Cardiovascular Health Programand Maine Emergency Medical Services’ “Maine HeartSafe Communities”upgraded the UMaine ambulance corps from a “basic” to “silver” ratingas a result of its continued expansion and improvement of services.
Dennis Russell, paramedic and chief of service for UVAC, says theacademic-year service offers emergency medical assistance that iscomparable with many municipal ambulance services in Maine. The serviceis run primarily by student volunteers trained as emergency medicaltechnicians under the guidance of a small professional staff at CutlerHealth Center.
“We have the same level of services as manyambulance services in the state,” says Russell. “We have the samelicense level as any municipal ambulance services in the state.”
With about 24 EMTs, and a fully equipped ambulance available 24 hours aday on campus during the academic year, the service was elevated instatus this month because of two essential program advancements thatcan improve survival rates for stroke and heart-related emergencies.
Within the last two years, UMaine’s Public Safety dispatchers have beentrained as emergency medical dispatchers, enabling them to advisecallers on basic emergency care techniques while an ambulance is enroute. Also, because of UVAC’s mutual aid relationship with Orono andOld Town fire departments and Capital Ambulance Service in Bangor, aparamedic, in addition to UVAC EMTs, is dispatched to all prioritymedical emergencies.
Many of UVAC’s member volunteers cometo the service to be trained and sometimes they bring previoustraining. Students come from a wide array of academic majors, fromEnglish to engineering; they take EMT training in addition to theiracademic workload.
“It’s professional development for thestudents, but it’s also an emergency rescue service,” says Russell.”There are very few colleges or universities in the nation that have anAdvance Life Support ambulance service.”
UVAC members canobtain advance training and certifications, allowing them to administeradvanced life support measures, including controlled drugs and IVs andadvanced airway management techniques. The UVAC ambulance has a cardiacmonitor with an AED (automated external defibrillator) aboard.
“We’re a teaching service,” Russell says. “A lot of students who aremembers later go on to medical school, nursing or pursue a career inpre-hospital emergency medicine.”
Serving the universitycommunity of more than 14,000 people, UVAC received 574 calls lastyear, up from 453 the prior year and far more than the 367 it receivedin 2004, according to Russell. Calls included first response to medicalemergencies, patient transports, standby medical coverage on and offcampus, fire alarms and special events on campus.
DanielleLouder, a cardiovascular health specialist with the Maine CDC’sCardiovascular Health Program in Augusta, says the UMaine ambulanceservice has done an excellent job of upgrading its levels of service,in addition to promoting public awareness of the signs and symptoms ofsudden cardiac arrest, heart attacks and stroke.
“I thinkthey offer the most CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) classes of anylocal EMS service in the state,” she says. “It’s amazing.”
Russell says UVAC trains approximately 400 people a year. CPR haschanged in the last few years and now includes training on AEDs, whichare available at seven locations around campus. Anyone who is trainedand certified to use the devices may do so in an emergency.
The Maine HeartSafe Communities program, which also includesparticipation from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services,began recruiting emergency medical service providers into the programin 2005. HeartSafe Communities participants track requirements forproviding basic, silver, gold or platinum levels of emergency servicesand note advancements.
Russell says reaching the gold levelmay take time for UMaine’s ambulance corps, since it requires anexpensive piece of heart-monitoring equipment, an electrocardiogram.But he’s gratified with the silver level recognition, and praises JanetWaldron, vice president for finance and administration, and RobinToderian, assistant vice president of Auxiliary Services, for theircontinuing support of UVAC.