University of Rochester

Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

MERT volunteers often first responders

By Neeta Daga '06

MERT photo
MERT members, from left: Alex Cornwall '06, Josh Brown '06, Dan Nassau '08, and Julie Gurariy '08.

It was a Saturday night, and Josh Brown '06 got the call. He grabbed his gear and headed to the scene where a man had stopped breathing. A member of the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) on the River Campus, Brown quickly began performing CPR, providing critical care until the ambulance arrived 10 minutes later.

For the past three years, Brown has responded to calls such as these working on an ambulance crew in downtown Buffalo. As a crew chief for MERT, the undergraduate uses that training and experience to respond to campus emergencies, providing what he sees as a vital service to those who work and study on the River Campus.

"I like that MERT provides an essential service to the University community," says Brown.

An all-volunteer organization, MERT works directly with University Security to respond to calls made to the campus emergency number (x13). "They complement out department very well," says Joseph Reed, assistant supervisor to security and MERT advisor.

Calling x13 instead of 911, says Alexandra Cornwell '06, a MERT crew chief, is more efficient and often results in faster response times, as much 15 minutes in some cases. Another added benefit, says Cornwell, is that in almost half the cases that the group handles, victims are able to avoid an emergency room visit.

MERT has more than 160 members, all CPR certified, with 30 members who also are EMT certified. Between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., a four-person crew is on duty, including a crew chief and crew chief trainee. During the day, nine members are on call and respond as needed to situations involving faculty, staff, and students that can range from asthma attacks to sport injuries.

"We're not just a bunch of kids; we're the same people who respond to the typical 911 call," says Dan Nassau '08, who works on an ambulance crew in his hometown of Mamaroneck, N.Y., and oversees training for MERT members. He stresses the importance of having a campus group that can respond quickly and offer help on a more personal level. "We sympathize with the students we take care of, which allows us to give them better care."

MERT held its annual drill in the Sigma Chi House a few months ago where the team tested its communication system and practiced ways to manage potential emergencies such as a mass causality incident. The group is hoping to recruit more volunteers this spring, including graduate students and faculty and staff. To learn more, visit or e-mail

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