Fall 2013
EMT careers impact decision to attend medical school

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Sean McGee

McGee expects his prior experience as an EMT along with the medical training he receives from the School of Medicine will help him serve his country as an Air Force physician. Photo by Matt Lush.

From ambulance to anatomy lab: Students apply EMT experiences to medical school

By Anne Pershing

Four University of Nevada School of Medicine students arrived on campus bringing their previous experiences as EMTs and paramedics to their medical education training. Has their background in those two fields helped them with the medical degree they are currently pursuing? Yes, replied the students.

Sean McGee, Class of 2016, said that his EMT experience has helped with his course work and clinical training, especially in the areas of heart and lung medication.

"I definitely enjoyed helping people as an EMT. It helped me mature and develop as a person. It also validated the road I wanted to take to become a physician," he explained.

McGee graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2007, with a bachelor's of science degree in biology

"I was a military brat," he said, "and I'm glad my family and I moved to Reno. I love it because there are great people here and it offers so much in the area of outdoor recreation."

Following his acceptance at the School of Medicine, he also signed up to serve his country with the U.S. Air Force on a military scholarship.

"My training as an EMT is helping me with the training I'm receiving through the Air Force, as well," he said.

"I will owe the Air Force three years for my education and am very grateful to them for helping me with my education. I chose this route because I knew it would be highly rewarding to be able to provide health care to the men and women who serve our country."

McGee explained that the Air Force offers a strong code of ethics and the ability to focus on school and residency without worrying about tuition.

"The scholarship is incredibly generous and an opportunity from which I could not turn away. I have yet to decide what specialty I may pursue and where I will eventually practice medicine. Right now, I'm considering a career in the Air Force, but just want to help others and serve my country until I make a final decision."

Christine M. Schlemmer, also with the Class of 2016, earned her EMT and paramedic certification following her graduation from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2012. She was then hired by the Prince Georges Fire Department in Maryland near her hometown and began her career as a firefighter/paramedic.

Following a move to Las Vegas, she worked for Medic West Ambulance and realized that while her career as a paramedic was rewarding, she wanted to be able to do more for her patients, so she started on her path toward medicine.

"As a student at the medical school, I'm able to bring my EMT and paramedic experiences to the classroom, which helps me relate to course work and clinical situations. Working as a paramedic, you have a lot of autonomy with how you take care of your patients, but your scope of practice and the time you spend with your patients is limited."

"I wanted to spend more time with my patients to think more critically about them and have a more lasting impact on their health. Working as an EMT confirmed the passion I have for health care."

"Hearing a lecture on heart failure, I can instantly think of a patient I worked on and correlate that with what I'm learning in physiology, which helps me understand what the professor is talking about. The School of Medicine has been great and I'm learning so much."

She explained that: "Because of the education I'm receiving, I've learned that I'm interested in cardiology and emergency medicine. I would love to practice in northern Nevada as I love it here. I want to maintain the relationship with people I've worked with. My family is still on the East Coast but we see each other frequently."

She added that she felt very fortunate because her husband, Rich, is a paramedic who encouraged her to pursue her career in medicine.

"He's the one who brought me to Nevada and I'm so very happy he did."

Matthew Sabatini, Class of 2015, who is originally from Burbank, Calif., moved to Reno as a child.

After graduating from Wooster High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years, serving as a scout sniper with two combat tours in Iraq. During his first tour in Iraq, he became determined to do something special with his life and that included becoming a doctor.

"After leaving the Marine Corps, I enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno as a cell biology major and for 18 months enrolled in EMT classes four hours a night at Truckee Meadows Community College, while volunteering with the Boys & Girls Club and Big Brothers and Sisters."

He tailored his college classes to prepare for medical school, knowing he wanted to attend the School of Medicine.

"I believe the EMT classes beefed up my resume. I always wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to help people. Being an EMT has helped me with the clinical aspect of medical school where we saw patients right away along with course work. Unlike other medical schools, Nevada has clinical work all four years."

"We have good professors, most of whom are also researchers. We are very competitive for residencies and so many students do very well on their boards. Being an EMT and serving in the Marines with all the experience I obtained has helped me a lot. I'm also hoping my past experiences will help in my pursuit of a residency in emergency medicine or anesthesiology," he said.

Sabatini, who was elected director of the School of Medicine's Medical Education Outreach Committee, said he feels fortunate that he got to attend medical school in Nevada because of the education he's receiving and that it allows him to be close to family.

John R. Walter, Class of 2016, credits his EMT and paramedic experiences as the inspiration for his decision to pursue a career in medicine.

"I knew I wanted to be a paramedic; while I was in paramedic school I began thinking about becoming a physician."

John also has an interesting history with medicine from the patient's viewpoint, due to the fact that in 1999, at the age of 17, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He had his last treatments of radiation and chemotherapy in 2001.

"Being a patient myself, I know what it's like to be on the other side of the hospital bed. It made me the person I am today. As sick as I was, it helped me develop strength and determination to not let it beat me. I'm fine now, but it was quite a journey. After the cancer, I got involved with volunteering for Make-A-Wish and Children's Miracle Network."

As for his paramedic and EMT history, John, who was born in Chico, Calif., moved to Reno when he was three and is a 2010 University of Nevada, Reno graduate.

He pointed out that while he is no longer a paramedic, he still teaches CPR and EMT classes.

"Being a paramedic and EMT have helped with preceptor training at the medical school and given me an edge in making me more comfortable with patients."

"Both have also helped me with course work and cases and exposed me to the real world of medicine. It was well worth the time spent in my 20's as a paramedic because I truly believe it will help me become a better doctor."

He said that while he is still exploring his career options, he is leaning toward wanting to practice emergency medicine.

Former EMTs now in medical school

Former EMTs now in medical school.

The following students also had EMT experience prior to medical school: Jason Hill, left; Whitney Knott, Zackary Johnson, center; Seth Winterton, Jacob Stever, right; Milad Motarjemi Webb, Christopher Robertson, Christopher Goodwill, Brian Biagi, Ashley Payne, Jen Gianopolus.