You’ve probably seen them powerwalking around campus in their crisp blue shirts, armed with walky-talkies on their belts and gigantic red packs on their backs. But who are these confusingly clad bunch? Science students who carry each and every textbook with them at all times, hooked up to their TA via radio for constant reassurance? Why no, it is the friendly Student Emergency Response Team! This week’s campus celebrity is Evan Formosa, the Executive Director of the Student Emergency Response Team, more commonly known as SERT. He is a fourth year student studying physiology, and managed to sit down with me for a much-needed study break in the kitchen of my small student bungalow. He is not unfamiliar with this old fashioned kitchen, as he spends many nights crashing here with his girlfriend after ten-hour shifts “on call.”
But what exactly is the Student Emergency Response Team? “Members are certified Emergency Medical Responders from the Red Cross and we respond to all 911 medical emergencies on Huron, Brescia, and main campus, 24 hours a day 7 days a week,” says Evan.
Now I know you are probably thinking that SERT’s most impactful contribution to Western Life is helping to mop up vomit or coaching crying drunks back into their beds for some sobering up, but Evan insists that this is not the case.
“Everybody thinks SERT only deals with drunk calls, or as we call them HBD (Has Been Drinking). Western in itself is a huge campus community with different walks of life. Whether it is kids at the day care to elderly at the dental clinic, we are exposed to many different kinds of medical emergencies,” says Evan. “We see things as simple as a rolled ankle, all the way up to VSA – Vital Signs Absent.”
Influencing the student experience at Western is something that Evan, alongside his SERT team, considers to be very important: “It’s an additional resource that can be in a more intense nature involving medical emergencies, but we also provide a ton of first aid training to Western and the London community.”
Evan feels that SERT is a positive contribution to not only his skills as a medical responder, but for his interpersonal skills as well. “Contributing towards a positive change in someone’s life is an amazing experience, and you learn communicate with people who are dealing with their biggest issues, and that’s only something you can learn through experience.”
In the future, Evan hopes to pursue emergency medicine, and being on SERT has solidified that desire.
When he is not “on call”, Evan spends most of his time studying, hanging out with his girlfriend, and rock climbing.
After being asked what is the most important message about health for students, Evan was quick to respond, “I guess it’s kind of cliché but just be smart and make wise decisions. Ultimately you are in control of your health and wellbeing.”
Cliché or not, this message is clearly repeated for a reason. The team members on SERT are intensely trained and are quick to respond to help keep every student — yes even you — safe and healthy.
SERT was initially founded in 1988 by a Western student named Robert Garland after he found a non-breathing student on campus. “When Robert was trying to figure out what to call the response team,” Evan laughs, “one of the names that was tossed around was Western Emergency First Aid Response Team.” That name was quickly nixed due to the obvious acronym issue.
If you want to get involved with SERT, visit their website at www.sert.uwo.ca.