It’s 1 a.m. and a student is having an allergy attack in her residence hall. Across campus, several student volunteers wake up to the sound of their radios, grab their gear, and head off.
Serena Persaud ’20 is one of those students. When she gets a call, it’s her job to respond as quickly as possible, sometimes in as little as two or three minutes.
As a member of the Hamilton College Emergency Medical Service (HCEMS), Persaud is one of 25 student volunteers who are New York State certified EMTs. Their work keeps the College community safe 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week while classes are in session. November 11-17 is National Collegiate EMS Week, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of HCEMS becoming a NYS EMS agency.
The skills I’ve learned are incredible and really put me in the middle of the medical field. It’s given me a lot of practical knowledge about what it’s like to tend to a patient, address a medical problem, and look at every aspect of the situation.
According to Persaud, the EMTs are equipped to handle all kinds of medical emergencies —from allergy attacks to sudden injuries. She embraces the spontaneity that comes with the job. “That’s one of my favorite parts of being an EMT,” she says. “I like the sense of surprise and the challenge of having to think on your feet.”
As a neuroscience major on the pre-med track, Persaud describes the job as a vital learning experience. “Being an EMT has taught me so much, including technical skills, communication, and patient care,” she says. “The skills I’ve learned are incredible and really put me in the middle of the medical field. It’s given me a lot of practical knowledge about what it’s like to tend to a patient, address a medical problem, and look at every aspect of the situation.”
Persaud knew she wanted to be an EMT from the moment she set foot on campus. “I saw it at the club fair my freshman year,” she says. “I heard that they were such a great group of people that everyone on campus seems to know, like, and trust. It was someone I wanted to be.”
The training process to become part of the team is rigorous, including an accelerated summer course and an EMT certification test. Even after passing her certification requirement, Persaud continues to train through review sessions, quizzes, and the hands-on experience of being on call for 30 to 40 hours each week.
The shifts are long — 12 to 15 hours — but Persaud doesn’t let that slow her down. “I just want people to know, it’s not as intimidating as it seems,” she says. “It’s more rewarding than strenuous.”
Even if [the students I'm treating are] strangers, we still understand each other on a deeper level. We’re part of a community, and we get what they’re going through.
Although there are hospitals and emergency services close to campus, the EMTs allow students to get the treatment they need with quicker response times. “There’s also the added benefit of being treated by a peer. Even if we’re strangers, we still understand each other on a deeper level. We’re part of a community, and we get what they’re going through,” Persaud says.
This peer-to-peer connection is one of the most rewarding parts of Persaud’s experience as an EMT. “It’s nice to know that I can be there for students when they need help the most.”
In addition to her work as an EMT, Persaud is the president of HAAND (Hamilton Autism Advocates for Neurodiversity), a member of the Red Cross club, and an employee in the Sports Medicine Department. After taking a gap year after graduation, she plans to attend medical school and become a research technician.
Hometown: Queens Village, N.Y.
High School: Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School
Although confidentiality laws prevent Persaud from acknowledging a call to any students or faculty members — even when a student thanks her for the assistance — she can’t help but crack a smile. “I’m not allowed to say you’re welcome, but I always smile,” she says. “It’s nice to know that people feel supported by our presence on campus, and that they’re getting the help they need.”
Other members of HCEMS include: Seniors Devin Hebert, Micaela Tobin, Elizabeth (Liz) Mathis, Patrick Morelli, Mark Lutz, Haley Raphael, Christopher (Chris) Browne. Juniors Lily Charron, Honor Allen, Haley Katz, Samuel (Sam) Gause, Grace Godwin, Stephanie Wu, Alanna McGill, Sarah Pierpoint, Elaine Yip. Sophomores Elizabeth (Tatie) Summers, Avery Lum, Adaira (Addie) Dumm, Isabella (Bella) Bote, Joseph (Joey) West, Benjamin (Ben) Grummon, Madeline (Maddy) Pavlovich, Laura Radulesco.