Members of Rice Emergency Medical Services (REMS) took their skills and expertise to the American Embassy in Panama in late May to teach an emergency care attendant class. The 40-hour class was an entry-level EMS training class and offered an introduction to life-saving skills for personnel who may act as a primary responder or in a support role in a large-scale emergency.
A group of 25 personnel from departments throughout the embassy were taught everything from CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator to patient assessment, medical and traumatic emergencies, splinting and bandaging, burns, heat and cold emergencies as well as a specific module on snakes, insects and Panama-specific bites and stings.
The course instructors were Mark Escott ’96, REMS medical director and founder of REMS; Shane Jenks, REMS assistant medical director; Lisa Basgall, director of REMS; Patrick McCarthy, Baker College rising senior and REMS captain; Jesse Passman, Baker College rising senior and REMS senior lieutenant; and Wilhelm Kienast ’12, former REMS member.
Students in the class were a mix of those who have first-responder responsibilities at the embassy for security, those who have responsibility for safety assurance and others who simply had an interest in helping their families and their communities, said Mike Escott ’98, a security official with the State Department — and Mark Escott’s brother. Mike Escott organized the project and said the idea was based on his experience and training, particularly his experience at Rice in the development of the REMS program. He said the idea was also driven by the need to bridge the response gap to medical emergencies at the embassy.
“The class was one of the best I’ve ever been involved with,” Basgall said. “The participants were all eager to take the first-responder course. They were long, 10-hour days in the classroom with nonstop presentations, skills demonstrations and patient-care practice, but at the end of the week, everyone agreed the time and energy were worth it.”
Passman said, “It was great to work with such a diverse class. They all seemed very enthusiastic and genuinely excited to learn. While I hope they won’t ever have to use their skills, I am happy there is now a team of embassy workers trained to help if something does happen. Every embassy could benefit from such an experience. It was also excellent to see the creation of cross-department connections among the various employees.”
Mike Escott said the embassy in Panama had never offered such a course before and was unaware of a formal course like this one being offered at another embassy.
At the end of the week, the Rice team was invited on a special tour of the Panama Canal. “We actually got to walk out onto the locks to the command post and watch over the shoulders of the canal operators as the locks were drained and filled to move two huge ships through the locks,” Basgall said. “Hard to describe the scope and size of this feat of engineering!”