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August 14, 2014

It’s hard to imagine anything good could have come out of 2013’s Boston Marathon bombings. The terror of that day showed how vulnerable we are as a society. Yet for the students and faculty of Bridgewater State, it became a moment to shine and learn.

Spearheaded by students after the bombings, the BSU’s Athletic Training Program faculty began pushing for emergency medical technician training. In July, the staff earned the state’s Eugene H. Rooney Jr. award for public service for its development of the EMT program, which is currently an elective. 

Faculty members hope it will soon be a requirement and part of the curriculum by fall.

“The students wanted more education so that they would be prepared if something like this were to ever happen again,” said Dr. Kimberly Wise, who is in her second year as clinical education coordinator for the program.

Drs. Wise and Suanne Maurer-Starks, director of the Athletic Training Program, had discussed additional training before the bombings. Athletic training, which has been offered at BSU for more than 30 years, already included prep work that fell just shy of EMT training. In general, athletic trainers aim to prevent sports injuries and manage injuries after they occur, said Dr. Robert Colandreo, assistant professor in the program. The EMT training takes things to another level.

Dr. Maurer-Starks explained that “all of the kids have to have first aid and CPR … but that it's limited in its scope and practice of what you can actually teach the students.”

The need for additional training came into clearer focus after the bombings, when Dr. Wise, along with several students at the finish line of last year’s marathon, jumped into action to help triage runners and spectators injured by the blasts.

“Anything that deals with emergency care, we are qualified to do,” said Dr. Wise, who only had begun working as an assistant professor in the program seven months before the bombing. “So anything along those lines … stop the bleeding, tourniquets, any type of CPR, rescue breathing … we are there to assist.  That’s within our scope of practice.”

The students at the finish line were initially there to look for maladies such as heat stroke and to provide wheelchairs for runners in need after the race. Beyond that, however, they were expected to hand off care to qualified or licensed medical professionals. Though they had prepared at BSU with an emergency action plan, they never expected to need it, Dr. Wise said.

“We were all working as a medical team,” she said. “We’re working alongside the physicians, the EMTs, athletic trainers, the fire department, the police department.”

The new program, for undergrads and graduate students, would make EMT training a requirement. “It will sit well with students, too,” said Dr. Maurer-Starks, “because now they'll graduate with another credential. Although they don't have to take the state test for the EMT class, they are prepared to, and they are eligible to sit for the exam if they choose to do so.”

In addition to work at the marathon, the department normally sends students to “clinical” sites to conduct supervised clinical education experience as athletic trainers. Dr. Wise manages placements for juniors and seniors that include Boston College, Harvard and the New England Revolution, among other area high schools and colleges. In addition, the program teaches practicing clinicians who work with and supervise BSU and other students.

Faculty members were proud of the way BSU students responded during and after the marathon bombing.

“I’m very humbled to be around such prestigious young minds because they’re not wanting for themselves,” said Dr. Wise. “They’re wanting for the community and to better themselves so they can educate and assist our community. “

“The day that we received the award,” said Dr. Maurer-Starks, “there was a police officer … [who] sought us out afterwards and said, ‘Listen, I just want to let you know that I was also at the finish line, and I was with some of your students. Just the means and manner in which they responded, we were so impressed by how they handled themselves. I just wanted to come up and let you all know that.’ … I'm sure that it had to be chaotic, and for them to remember that it was Bridgewater kids and how they did, that made me think, ‘Okay, we're doing something right.’” (Steve Ide)

(Left to right) Frederick Clark Jr., BSU's executive vice president and vice president of external affairs, Gov. Deval Patrick, and Professors Suanne Maurer-Starks and Kimberly Wise