TEMS Celebrates 20 Years of Service

December 8, 2001

Megan Smith, <i>Hullabaloo</i> news co-editor

Tulane Emergency Medical Services has provided free emergency medical services to the campus vicinity since the Fall of 1981. The organization was formed when a few students trained as Emergency Medical Technicians used a converted plumber's van, Unit 10, to respond to campus medical emergencies.

Since 1981, the organization has grown to 35 members. Tulane EMS purchased its first real ambulance, Unit 20, in 1985. Since the acquisition of Unit 20, TEMS has "provided on-the-scene care and emergency transportation to Tulane students, as well as staff members, both on campus and in the Uptown area," according to their website.

Unit 20 was replaced by Unit 30 in 1994. In 1999, Unit 40 was purchased, and since then the organization has been using both ambulances. Having two ambulances has allowed TEMS to have a backup in case one vehicle breaks down, and the capability to run standby operations for University events. TEMS sometimes takes the backup unit to local schools, showing children the inner workings of an emergency vehicle.

"It's a lot of fun," Rob Wennerberg, assistant director of operations, said. Members must be nationally registered Emergency Medical Technicians but can do so after joining TEMS. This certification is often completed through a three-credit semester course offered by the University.

In addition to the class, members must complete a six- to eight-week training program before they can start working, providing basic medical care and transporting patients to hospitals. Once a part of the organization, members are expected to work two 12-hour shifts per week. Tulane EMS' average response time is three-and-a-half minutes, and the service offers emergency transport to almost all New Orleans area hospitals.

Strictly voluntary, Tulane EMS is funded by the Student Health Center and the Associated Student Body. According to an April 2000 TEMS newsletter, the organization had provided $61,099 worth of emergency medicine and transportation free of charge during the fall of 1999. The majority of TEMS calls, numbering 225 thus far this semester, are orthopedic, according to Mike Rosenthall, TEMS director.

"We get a lot of intramural football (and other) sports injuries," he said. Four-hundred and fifty calls were made to TEMS last year. "It's a good feeling that our organization can do something ... to be able to make a difference ... which is our whole intention," Wennerberg said. With any other service, an individual would have to pay "at least $500 to ride in an ambulance with lights on," Rosenthall said.

Since the program's inception, a doctor from the Student Health Center has advised the organization. In 1990, Dr. Wayne Baxley took over as the TEMS medical director. When he arrived, approximately 30 students belonged to TEMS. Baxley said it is fortunate that these students are willing to donate their time without pay.

"I spend a lot of time mentoring, encouraging them in doing something they get no monetary reward for and making them happy," he said. A member of the National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation, TEMS is one of approximately 200 schools nationwide that provides campus-based Emergency Medical Services.

"It's been a miracle," Baxley said. "Tulane is probably one of the highest levels (of student-run EMS organizations) with members that are totally volunteer."

The organization accepts applications twice a year. Interested students may apply in the spring. For more information, visit

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000