UREMS members Elena Zerkin, a rising senior, and recent graduate Emma Norris in a Richmond Fire Unit truck.

These Spiders are first responders

May 21, 2024


UREMS member Parisa Mershon at a community outreach event teaching Halle Zweibel tourniquet application. Both are rising seniors.

Holly Wemple gets calls any time of day or night as an EMT for University of Richmond Emergency Medical Services.

“After three years, I think I have received a call at every hour of the day,” said Wemple, a rising senior who is president of the student group and a biochemistry and molecular biology major. “We have members on call 24/7 when in service during the school year.”

Nearly 30 students took part in the program this past semester. Over the academic year, they took around 150 calls for service on campus and its surrounding area.

The program is overseen by John Jacobs, a lieutenant with the UR Police Department. Jacobs said the students can get calls ranging from a simple laceration to a heart attack call or difficulty breathing. “They are dedicated, caring individuals who want to help people,” he said.

Wemple became an EMT during her senior year of high school in New York. She transferred her certification to Virginia once she signed up for UREMS, the first organization she joined on campus.

Students do not have to be EMTs before signing up, as Jacobs sets up certification classes each fall. Some URPD officers are also trained emergency medical technicians.

Throughout the year students receive training, both in-house and through Richmond Ambulance Authority. In addition to their work with UREMS, most of the students also work off campus at agencies such as Tuckahoe Rescue Squad and RAA.

Members are dispatched through special phones issued by the University. They can be paged any time someone calls 911 or the campus emergency line, from the early hours of the morning until late at night. 

While on shift, members wear shirts and jackets that mark them as UREMS members, often donning EMS work pants and boots that offer added protection.

Two people are always on call. Once they arrive on scene, they provide medical care until an ambulance service reaches campus, at which point they transfer care to those responders.

They do not travel with the ambulances, because they still need to be on campus to respond to other calls, said Wemple. “There have been a few times this past semester where multiple calls dropped at once.” 

While on call, students can still go to classes, study, and attend meetings with professors.

“The added stress though is that we could receive a call at any point, so it is something to consider when scheduling shifts,” she said. “Our professors are understanding as long as we communicate with them.”

Being part of the campus community means the students sometimes see familiar faces.

“The biggest challenge I think for most of our providers is that you are responding to your fellow students, friends, professors, and community members that sometimes we know on a personal level,” she said. “This means that we must hold our providers to even higher standards of professionalism in these instances to ensure that patient care is never impacted while also providing holistic care to our patients.”