WMed students, residents help ease EMS shortage by covering WMU games

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — As Western Michigan football fans cheer on their Broncos on Saturdays, a team of young recruits is catering to the crowd whenever there is a call for help.

An ongoing program at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine allows students, resident physicians and faculty to provide medical coverage during home football games at Waldo Stadium alongside Life EMS.

Charlie Brauchla, a third-year resident at WMed, was eager to make a difference in other’s lives after receiving care for injuries he suffered as an athlete.

“I wanted to spread that along to some people that I might be able to help in the future as well,” Brauchla said.

Many of these up-and-coming prospects, including second-year student Somer Corbett, are certified as medical first responders, equipped with communication skills and a sophisticated understanding of the body.

“We can perform basic lifesaving measures and we can get them to a place where they need more care if it’s outside of our range,” Corbett said.

While the call volume directly depends on crowd size and weather, emergencies range from typical to the more game day-specific.

“Lots of times, there’s falls at the football games and simple lacerations that we can help repair,” Brauchla explained. “Sometimes, people get a little bit dehydrated or overheated, and we’re able to take care of that at the games as well. Then there’s always the person who’s just had a little bit too much to drink. We’re able to watch them for a couple of hours and make sure that they are safe.”

Dr. William Fales, a professor of emergency medicine at WMed, says the program helps alleviate the EMS shortage locally.

“That keeps the ERs open and keeps the volume down,” Fales said.

Fales, who founded the program seven years ago, is also Kalamazoo County’s EMS director. He said the program’s real-life application is what truly brings out value for everyone involved.

“They get more emergency medical training in their first seven weeks than most doctors get in their entire four years,” Fales said. “So to be able to use it now in ways that benefit the community is really great.”

Corbett said the real-life application will help her take the reins of her future.

“I think it’s great to take what we learned in the classroom and actually get the chance to apply it, especially so early in our careers,” Corbett said. “It’s really a positive for us, and I think that it’s going to improve the way that we act as physicians in the future, too.”

According to Fales, enough WMed students answered the call for help to have a dozen ready at a moment’s notice, twice as many as on previous game days.

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