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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Signal 7 for the SBVAC

    The Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corp has been our volunteer ambulance service on campus for over 30 plus years. It responds to calls on campus, and the surrounding community, and is fully run by students of Stony Brook. It has for a questionable reputation on campus, I wanted to reflect more on an organization that many do not take the time to learn about. I’ve had a unique opertunity to get a view into a tight knit, impressive, award winning, well-run organization that provides the highest standard of medical service to us.

    During my freshman year, I was advised multiple times by people not to join SBVAC. Advised is probably too nice of a word for the language used during the multiple conversations. Finding a positive comment was a rare occurrence, and after multiple conversations about how awful, cliquey and mean spirited the organization was, I decided it wasn’t even worth attending an informational session.

    A year later, I got a different opportunity to look into the organization that affected not only our campus, but also the surrounding community in a new way. Many students have a very negative perception of SBVAC based just on word of mouth and from the presence of the group of campus. They seem to be a group of semi-qualified, pompous students who think that their knowledge makes them better than the rest of us. Though some may carry this attitude, I’d like to present another view: professionalism and dedication to the job.

    This year, more than 400 applicants applied into the program, and only 18 got accepted. Each probationary member, or probie, is required to attend a six hour class every Sunday, do many sign-offs for skills, and have a two strike rule for their tests. They are also required to pass the state EMT course, in addition to the Stony Brook course. Now, imagine, after all this work, not even officially being a member of the organization. They clean up your vomit on Friday nights and respond to elders in cardiac arrest.  You see them at all our sporting events and doing community outreach. Yes, you may think they are cocky in their uniforms, but aren’t they doing a job? Like anyone, they should be able to walk around proud of their work and accomplishments without such harsh criticism for what exactly?

    We look at a police officer, or the military personal with respect when we see them walking down the street, but when SBVAC walks in, we just roll our eyes. It can seem unfair for a student to ask another student for more respect, but we do owe SBVAC for the work they do. To give the best care to us as students, SBVAC trains their members to be even more qualified than a state EMT to maintain the high standard that won the New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Emergency Services as the 2003 New York State EMS Agency of the Year, more than 2000 plus agencies.

    It is the same as a sports team. Those who spend hours training together inadvertently will become a family. My high school swim team, for the lack of a better word, was a cult. We all dedicated our free time to improving ourselves as swimmers and each other and doing our best to be the best. We hate cops who give us tickets, or teachers who give us a bad grade, but in reality they are just doing their job. It’s the same situation in any job that asks for a higher skill. As a lifeguard, my co-workers and I would constantly get “the face” of disrespect. Yes, we may just sit there on a chair, but when you start cramping in the pool, we are the first to jump in to get you. We take advantage of the fact that we have such a quick response system on campus. We don’t look at our peer mentors, tutors and TAs in a negative light, but why do we to the members of SBVAC? We all strive to be the best in our respective fields across the board.

    Sitting down with the chief of operations, Daniel Wolbrom, I had the chance to discuss some of the basics that SBVAC manages without. Currently, there are three running ambulances, was bought in 1997. The wear and tear of the ambulances is inevitable based on the amount of usage, but I was almost shocked to hear how some simple changes could be made to improve the response times. Wolbrom gave an example of a problem during the winter of extreme cold. In the freezing temperatures, the older ambulances need time to warm up or the maximum speed will be three miles per hour and after snowstorms, SBVAC members literally must climb on top the roof to clear of snow in a hurry.

    In addition to the cold affecting the engineering of the car and the snow physically impairing it, medicines on board get ruined when exposed to these temperatures. [Let it be noted that SBVAC replaces damaged and expired medicines, and rotates ambulances to use the best available option at the time of a call to maintain standards.] Wolbrom gave the simple solution of a garage. It is almost standard for an ambulance service to have one to protect the expensive ambulances, and prevent damages and help reduce costs in repair, maintenance and mechanical issues due to severe weather. Though he realizes this poses more of a challenge due to the size of project, he believes that it is a smart investment to improve the life of the ambulances, and allow better service.

    This brings us to the point of the necessity of a larger force to meet the demands of what SBVAC responds to. It almost seems counter productive to have an ambulance service on campus when our volunteers spend more of their valuable time on a call trying to get old ambulances to run. By investing in the best quality of equipment now, money can be saved long term in repairs and maintenance that a new ambulance won’t run into as easily.

    This lack of funding literally puts a monetary value to our emergency response care to the rough budget estimate of $140,000. It is also an issue of safety and responsibility towards the students, and as our student population grows, as must the ability to serve the increasing numbers. Throughout the interview, Wolbrom was very humble and modest about the achievements of SBVAC, and the position that they are in now financially. His focus is on bettering the community and always improving the care that the organization provides, but also realizes that change can’t happen over night and so far has done a tremendous job with these restrictions and problems he faces. As students of this University, it’s in our best interest to start caring about a service that some day may save a life you know, including your own.

    This article started with harsh, yet blind criticism. Though it is hard to respect those who you may see in class every day, we all need to start showing the organization a bit more gratitude for the work, service and time they put in as our equals to respond to our health emergencies. They work within a tight budget that doesn’t accurately reflect the importance of their work, yet manage to the best of their ability under constraints. The members I’ve had a chance to meet have re-worked my opinion about the organization through the sheer passion, dedication and drive that they have for the work and service that they provide.

    We all need to accept that sometimes, others will be better in areas we can’t excel in ourselves we should not take our own personal biases out on a group that provides us with such an important, free service. Without SBVAC, the ambulances that would respond to your calls would be less qualified to find your specific building and not know the ins and outs of our quads. It’s the fact that they are students that make them more qualified to work for us than an off-campus corp. Any group will have the members that reflect the negative image, but SBVAC is an organization that everyone should take a minute to re-evaluate before passing judgment.

    Reflecting back, I do regret my decision of not applying. I would highly encourage others to at least attend an informational session or talk to a member of the organization, and within five minutes, you will have a completely new opinion of the organization. Though it is extremely competitive and cutthroat, SBVAC only asks for the best because they provide the best.

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