Sep. 16, 2009
On Call for Excellence
Rachel Barnhard has always wanted to help people. As a varsity soccer player in high school, she’d wrap her teammates’ sore ankles, for example. “I wanted to be MacGyver,” recalls the director of Emory Emergency Medical Services, “but as I got older I found that there were real ways to help people.”
Sports medicine was the athlete’s initial interest, until she took an EMS course while attending the University of Georgia in 2003. Now she is helping to groom, grow and challenge another generation of college students interested in emergency response and preparedness.
Barnhard joined Emory EMS as its first full-time director June 1. As a unit of the Emory Police Department, the volunteer force of 67 certified EMT professionals provides 24/7 EMS coverage for campus — and for the past 17 years has been entirely student-run.
“They have run themselves quite well all these years, particularly operationally, and now we’re doing even better,” says Barnhard, who most recently was a paramedic with Grady Memorial Hospital EMS. “What they are benefitting from my position is oversight that includes years of experience, in the field and also administratively.”
Barnhard is a familiar face at Emory EMS headquarters in the North Decatur Building. For the past two years, Barnhard has taught the Emory EMT course, where students learn everything from the medical and legal aspects of patient care to providing first-line care for trauma.
“It’s neat to teach the class and be the director,” says Barnhard. “That way I catch them at the start and help them grow into high level medical providers.”
Most of the new graduates — now certified EMT professionals who complete 260-plus hours of training, beyond the 200 hours required by the state — go on to join Emory EMS. Call volumes are up, and so is student interest, says Barnhard. “This year we had over 100 applicants for 35 seats in the EMT class.”
Barnhard wants to challenge the student volunteers, already viewed as role models to their fellow students and a critical part of Emory’s public safety. “We have a lot to live up to,” she says. “There are really good EMS services in the Atlanta area, and we strive to be the best one.”
Emory EMS is the only University-affiliated emergency medical service in Georgia. Covering campus and adjacent roads and businesses, Emory EMS’ average response time of three minutes is a fraction of a time it normally takes other units to respond.
As director, Barnhard is operationally responsible for Emory EMS’ vehicle fleet, the command staff and the EMS volunteers. She enforces protocols, and works closely with the group’s physician medical director and Emory’s emergency response and preparedness teams. She’s also in the field, responding to calls and overseeing medical care.
Not at the moment, however. The Barnhards are expecting their first child, and entering her ninth month of pregnancy, Barnhard jokes that “she can’t climb out of the truck now.”
She is also taking a temporary break from one of her favorite activities: boxing. “It’s one of the best sports I’ve been a part of, and one of the best workouts.” An interest she has pursued since college, Barnhard equally enjoys participating in amateur boxing competitions and friendly sparring matches at the gym.
As for her leadership vision for Emory EMS: “My personal and professional goal is to create an environment where the student volunteers can accomplish their goals. I want to perpetuate growth and change.”