Members of the Student Society of Emergency Medicine pose with first responders from Station 33.
Members of the Student Society of Emergency Medicine pose with first responders from Station 33.

Medical students with the Student Society of Emergency Medicine (SSEM) came prepared to learn, observe, and even cook breakfast for first responders at Houston Fire Station 33 in the heart of the Texas Medical Center last month, as part of a partnership designed to give students firsthand experiences with EMS’s role in emergency care.

A group of 10 students set to work cooking breakfast the morning of Sept. 23, in what would be the first of many experiences getting to know firefighters and how they answered daily calls. John Peacock, a second-year medical student and president of SSEM, is a former firefighter and paramedic himself and understands firsthand how valuable learning about the everyday response from EMS personnel can be, particularly for up-and-coming emergency physicians.

“Those first 10 to 15 minutes or so of a response to a trauma call isn’t necessarily something you’re going to see in a medical school unless you have worked in fire or EMS response before,” Peacock said. “I think it’s important for emergency physicians to have a good understanding of what our first responders are doing out in the field prior to when we see these patients in the hospital.”

Students hitched rides with firefighters on several calls throughout the morning and into the afternoon, learning about procedures, equipment, and touring the facility. Meagan Mont, a fellow medical student and vice president of SSEM, said students not only left the event with a greater appreciation for HFD but also a better understanding of the unique challenges firefighters face in the field.

“We began to realize how challenging this job is when we tried on the heavy fire equipment, climbed the firetruck ladder, and watched how the firefighters handled medical emergencies in the field,” Mont said. “The men and women at Station 33 are incredibly strong, brave, and altruistic, and we are lucky to have them serving our community.”

Peacock said Dr. Kevin Schulz, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine and assistant program director, was instrumental in coordinating the program and encouraging students to participate.

“Most civilians don’t truly understand the entirety of HFD’s roles in prehospital health care,” Schulz said. “It is really important that the medical students, as future physicians and members of the health care community, understand the role that HFD plays in patient care.”

Peacock said the Station 33 crew enjoyed their time with McGovern Medical School students, and the group hopes to expand the program into a community outreach focused event, designed to provide some help and minor upkeep for the station and its crew.

“In the end, having a better understanding of what other people’s roles are at all levels is always going to make you better as a physician,” Peacock said.