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Army medical helicopter

Emergency Health Sciences receives $8.3 million to train flight medics

September 2013

by Rosanne Fohn

May 17, 2010, is a day Army Sgt. Eric Emmons will never forget. One of his brothers-in-arms died after stepping on an explosive device while their unit was en route for clearance operations in Afghanistan.

"He died instantly, so thankfully he did not have to suffer. But from that point forward I knew I would need to further my medical knowledge to ensure I could do everything possible for wounded soldiers in the future," said Sgt. Emmons, the unit’s medic.

Now a flight medic, Sgt. Emmons volunteered for the new U.S. Army Critical Care Flight Paramedic Program offered through the Department of Emergency Health Sciences (EHS), part of the School of Health Professions.

"The Army conducted a data analysis over the past 12 years on battlefield injuries. It showed there was a training gap in the care offered before we got injured soldiers to our surgical hospitals," explained Lt. Col. Brian Krakover, M.D., an Army emergency medicine physician.

  Sgt. Eric Emmons
Sgt. Eric Emmons checks the breathing of a child manikin used in training. Flight medics learn advanced skills to help not only fellow soldiers but civilians, as well.

The new flight medic program at the Health Science Center provides seven and a half months of intensive, in-depth medical training and critical thinking skills that flight medics need to keep severely injured soldiers alive during helicopter transport to a surgical hospital for stabilization. Following a successful pilot program at the Health Science Center in 2012, the Army signed a five-year, $8.3 million contract with the EHS to train 120 flight medics through four classes each year, for a total of 600 flight medics.

"These courses teach the ‘why’ behind what needs to be done," explained EHS Community Education Director Leslie Hernandez, M.A., Ed.D., who was recruited to lead the new program. "All of the students in our courses are volunteers, and most have had significant combat experience in Afghanistan. They are highly motivated."

Lance Villers, Ph.D., EHS chair and associate professor, added, "Our department has had a long history of working with the military. We have a great sense of pride in being able to have a role in improving the model of care for our soldiers."

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