The Charger Blog

University’s EMS Club Enables Students to Serve as First Responders on Campus

Nearly two dozen students in the University’s unique and immersive paramedicine program are also members of the EMS Club, serving as first responders at a variety of events on campus, gaining hands-on experience, and building meaningful working relationships with local first responders.

January 8, 2024

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Prof. Joe Soto (far right) with students.
Prof. Joe Soto (far right) with students.

When Steven Bagley ’24 was in high school, he completed an internship at the fire department in his hometown in Massachusetts. He knew immediately that he’d found what he wanted to be his career path: paramedicine.

Bagley was interested in the paramedicine program at the University of New Haven because it enables students to earn dual certification as both a firefighter and as a paramedic while also earning a bachelor’s degree. He has immersed himself in the program, becoming a leader in the University’s EMS Club, which has further enabled him to apply what he’s been learning in the classroom. He says it’s been a great way to gain experience and build connections.

“You find mentors within the club,” he explains. “When we were first-year students and sophomores, there were juniors and seniors in the program who took us under their wing. Now as juniors and seniors, we’ve been helping them.”

‘Real-world and hands-on situations’

That’s what Joseph Soto, M.S., NREMTP, EMS-I, the paramedicine program director and a co-adviser of the club, envisions. Since it was launched nearly a decade ago, the paramedicine program has become one of just eight such programs nationwide that enables students to earn a bachelor’s degree.

The clinically intensive program attracts students from across the country. They become emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and gain practical and leadership experience through clinicals in settings such as hospitals and ambulances. After earning their bachelor’s degree, some students also earn their Master of Healthcare Administration as part of one of the University’s 4+1 degree programs.

“When building the program, we wanted to give students experience,” said Prof. Soto, who has nearly three decades of experience in the emergency medical services industry. “We wanted them to be able to use what they’re learning in the classroom in real-world and hands-on situations.”

The EMS Club offers support at Chargers football games.
The EMS Club offers support at Chargers football games.
‘Learning how to talk to people’

A major component of that experience is the club’s expanding role on campus and in the local community. The EMS Club now includes 20 members who play a critical role in ensuring the health and safety of their fellow Chargers. They are a visible presence at University events such as football games. They also do weekly standbys on campus, staging at the Bartels Student Activity Center on Friday and Saturday nights and assisting if there’s a medical call on campus.

EMS Club members have stepped up to offer support at games to assist the athletic trainers. University clubs and organizations can also reach out to them and ask for their support at events. Whether they’re serving students on campus or their families at a football game, the members say that being a part of the club has offered a variety of opportunities to build their skills.

“A big part of this is learning how to talk to people,” explains, Ajay Eggimann ’24, a paramedicine major and club leader. “We also give reports to fire departments and ambulance crews, and it’s important to be able to do that.”

‘A win-win for everybody’

For Eggimann, working with first responders, as well as the professional backgrounds of the program instructors, has been critical. Those instructors include Prof. Christopher Reed, who served as a member of the West Haven Fire Department for nearly three decades, including as a deputy chief and fire marshal. Prof. Reed, executive director of fire, environmental, and workplace safety for the University, also is a co-adviser of the club with Prof. Soto. He says alumni are well-represented in many local fire departments – including several in West Haven.

Members of the University’s EMS Club assist at a variety of events on campus.
Members of the University’s EMS Club assist at a variety of events on campus.

“As a retired fire officer, I see these opportunities as a way to get your foot in the door to get on a fire department,” said Prof. Reed. “They’re looking for paramedics. If you have that, your chance of getting a job when you complete the program are very high.”

The EMS Club is expanding its reach beyond the University through community outreach. They visit local health fairs, offer blood pressure screenings, and teach hands-only CPR. Prof. Soto says they’re planning to expand what they do, including offering CPR and stop-the-bleed courses.

As they continue to grow and evolve, club members have built a meaningful working relationship with the University’s Police Department. Prof. Reed says campus police and local first responders have gotten to know the students, and they take them seriously. Students also look professional and are easily identifiable, donning campus EMS uniforms.

“Our students are really engaged, and it’s been a win-win for everybody,” explains Prof. Reed. “They provide a great service to the University, and they supplement the fire department and the ambulance when they’re here on campus.”

Students in front of the University’s Simbulance.
Students in front of the University’s Simbulance.
‘It’s what we came here to do’

The club’s relationships with local first responders, including from the West Haven Police Department, Allentown Fire Department, and the fire marshal’s office, have continued to strengthen. Many of them now include paramedicine alumni as staff members.

For Bagley, the paramedicine major from Massachusetts, his experience in the paramedicine program – and with the EMS Club – has been a rewarding way to prepare for his career as a first responder.

“We get to work with all populations of people,” he said. “It’s what we came here to do: to become paramedics.”