BEMCo was founded 27 years ago and has had 680 members since that time
BEMCo is an acronym as synonymous with the Brandeis campus as LOL is with the current generation's hypertechnological, exceedingly succinct and trendy lingo. The bulky orange bags that many Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps members slug around with them while they are on-duty have practically become a fashion statement on campus. But the true testament to the pervasiveness of the organization is that it has transitioned from lowly noun to exciting verb: "BEMCo him immediately!" can often be heard at the sidelines of frat parties and whispered at Pachanga. BEMCo is so essential to the Brandeis campus that it's hard to imagine a time when it wasn't available to students with the simple pressing of a few numbers (that would be (781) 736-3333-program it into your phone). Yet, just 27-soon to be 28-years ago, BEMCo was founded on the Brandeis campus by James Meisel '85. Since its creation, it has acquired 680 members in total and answered over 6,800 calls.
Meisel came up with the idea for an emergency medical service in spring of 1982. Meisel got the inspiration for BEMCo when he saw a student run through a glass window in the Hassenfeld Conference Center. The student, who suffered from glass-inflicted scratches and trauma, was quickly aided by campus police as Meisel witnessed the situation. At that moment, it occurred to Meisel that the student could benefit from emergency medical services right away. This was the inception of BEMCo.
The Department of Public Safety and the Brandeis administration were resistant at first to the idea of students taking on medical responsibility. The summer before his sophomore year, Meisel wrote a letter to Dr. Harris Faigel, former head of the University Health Center at Brandeis. The letter proposed a series of "What if . ?" scenarios in which Brandeis students would benefit from an on-campus emergency medical technician service.
Meisel worked to put together a constitution for BEMCo. Of the initial 18 students who comprised BEMCo, only eight had some form of EMS experience. The remaining 10 dealt with the administrative aspects. Just 3 years later in 1985, BEMCo had attracted 20 to 30 members.
"I'm so proud of the organization. It's gone so far beyond what I could have imagined in terms of its importance to the Brandeis community. The depth, quality and collegiality of its members will always make me proud," said Meisel in a phone interview with the Justice.
BEMCo's first call occurred after its first few days as an official organization, which were rather quiet. Meisel remembers being in chemistry lab on a Wednesday afternoon when BEMCo was notified about a woman in labor at Lemberg. Meisel "bolted over, chest heaving" to the scene just as the patient was pulling away in an ambulance.
BEMCo's first true test happened about a year into the program's creation at '80s rock band Adam Ant's on-campus concert. Meisel remembers two EMTs standing near the concert. The show, which was general admission, quickly got out of hand due to overcrowding and substance abuse. When Meisel, who showed up late to the show because of a meeting, entered the site, he recalls seeing the entire BEMCo membership on the scene.
That night, BEMCo treated 50 people who suffered from everything from hyperventilation to drug and alcohol overdoses.
"Dr. Meisel started an incredible organization, and we are tremendously grateful. As a result of Meisel's work, BEMCo is an extraordinary resource to the Brandeis and Waltham community," Dan Saxe '12, one of two clinical supervisors and the director of operations, said in a phone interview with the Justice.
As a student at Brandeis, Meisel was an Economics major and premed. He graduated in 1985 and went on to medical school at SUNY Buffalo. After his residency and time trekking across Spain, Italy and Israel for 3 months, he worked for a year as an emergency physician at Cambridge Hospital. Following his work in the emergency unit, Meisel was a primary care doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital for 9 years.
In 2002, he began two new career paths. He created a doctor/patient software communication program called Medvance Solutions, a computer program that eases the difficulty often associated with communicating complex test results between doctors and patients by generating patient-friendly, individualized letters to the patient. In pursuit of his passion, Meisel delved in to medical education as an inpatient clinician educator at Massachusetts General Hospital.
In 2008, Boston University asked him to join them as a clerkship director. Meisel's current position is to help direct third-year medical students in their internal medicine experience. Also, he is a teaching hospitalist at Mass General.
"Meisel was responsible for spearheading the foundation of BEMCo, and without that impetus, we wouldn't be the organization we are today. He is a constant support for us," Seth Merker '11, director of BEMCo and the other clinical supervisor, said in a phone interview with the Justice.
Currently, BEMCo has 65 active EMTs who rotate on 24-hour long shifts. It has two clinical supervisors: Saxe and Merker. As clinical supervisors, they each do three to four 24-hour shifts a week-so one of them is always available. During each 24-hour shift, BEMCo receives on average two calls, or roughly 14 to 15 calls a week.
The National Collegiate EMS Foundation is a nonprofit organization comprised of about 225 college EMS groups, one of which is BEMCo. Every spring, BEMCo offers an EMT training course on the Brandeis campus that trains about 30 new EMTs every year.
In a phone interview with the Justice Kassie Gibbs '12, an administrative BEMCo officer said, "BEMCo is a resource for students that provides them with quick access to medical care without having to worry about ... bills from ambulances. ... Basically, we're there for the students to make them feel safer."
In 2003, Meisel was "incredibly honored" when he was asked to give the keynote speech at BEMCo's 20th anniversary gala. He began his speech with a short anecdote about his three children. One night several years ago, while he was putting his kids to sleep, he was wearing a BEMCo undershirt. As he said goodnight to each of his children, it occurred to him that they were each wearing BEMCo undershirts as well. Even 20 years after its creation, BEMCo is still an active presence in his household.
"It was clearly one of my most influential experiences of my college career, and it has continued to be one of the highlights of my life . [I would love] to be able to give some of that back to BEMCo and the Brandeis community."
-Nashrah Rahman contributed reporting.