A Disaster Waiting To Happen: True-to-Life EMT Operations Exercise Will Put USC Greenville Med Students to the Test on August 31
Friday, August 31, 2012

GREENVILLE, S.C. — On Friday, August 31, members of the charter class of the University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine Greenville won’t be sitting in lectures. Nor will they be huddled over textbooks. And they probably won’t be daydreaming about the long Labor Day weekend ahead.

No, these new doctors-to-be will be busy responding to two simulated disasters on the campus of Greenville Memorial Hospital: a car crash with multiple injuries and a building evacuation due to a chemical release.

These “disasters waiting to happen” are actually an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Operations Exercise sponsored by the Greenville Hospital System, USC School of Medicine Greenville and Greenville Technical College. The exercise is the culmination of a six-week Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course required of first-year medical students and is designed as a final exam to test their clinical, critical problem solving, and communications skills in the heat of true-to-life disaster situations.

Greenville Technical College paramedic students will be staffing the Incident Command Center throughout the day.

The EMT Operations Exercise is overseen by Dr. Tom Blackwell and Mike Dunaway of Greenville Tech. Dr. Blackwell is a member of the USC School of Medicine Greenville faculty and an expert in disaster and terrorism preparedness and response medicine, a niche specialty he created in the 1980s. His passion for disaster preparedness earned him the nickname of “Chicken Little.” When the September 11 attack on America occurred, that nickname changed to “visionary” and his work attracted the likes of U.S. Homeland Security Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff.

“It will be an exciting day for participants and observers,” explained Dr. Blackwell. “Med students will work alongside firefighters, police and EMS workers extricating victims trapped in vehicles, making decisions on how to respond to victims, performing triage, treating injuries and interacting with members of the media.”

He added, “Although everything is simulated, the exercise is carefully and thoroughly staged with victim-actors in full clinical make-up and professional first responders from the Greenville community. The students must respond as if the events are real — they are being graded on their performance.”

The EMT Operations Exercise is a true community collaboration. The City of Greenville Police and Fire Departments and Greenville County EMS are donating their time to help train the USC School of Medicine Greenville and Greenville Tech students. It’s also a worthwhile investment. When the medical students complete their EMT training, Greenville County will have 53 additional certified EMTs prepared to respond to natural and man-made disasters. When the medical school reaches full enrollment in 2018, that number will climb to 400 certified EMTs.

USC School of Medicine Greenville Dean Jerry Youkey said the school’s EMT certification curriculum requirement is the only one of its kind in the United States. “There are other medical schools that are incorporating EMT training in their curriculums. We have taken it significantly further in that our students take a 200-hour certification course, must maintain certification for two years and also work as EMTs in our community during that time.”

He added, “Our goal is to prepare a new generation of physicians capable of leading and participating in the nation’s rapidly evolving healthcare delivery system. Serving as EMTs connects our students to the community and patients in a novel, intimate way. It teaches them interpersonal skills such as empathy and how to communicate. It also teaches them how to work as part of a healthcare team and gives them practical experience such as setting broken bones, treating wounds and opening airways.”

About the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville
The University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine-Greenville is a four-year medical program developed as a partnership between the University of South Carolina (USC) and the Greenville Hospital System (GHS). Since 1991, GHS has provided clinical education to third and fourth-year medical students of the USC School of Medicine Columbia. In 2009, the decision was made to expand to a four-year medical school. The USC School of Medicine Greenville achieved preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) in 2011 and welcomed its charter class in July 2012. Learn more at

About Greenville Hospital System
Greenville Hospital System (GHS) is committed to medical excellence through research, education and high-quality patient care. GHS offers patients a sophisticated network of expertise and technologies through its five medical campuses, tertiary medical center, research and education facilities, community hospitals, physician practices and numerous specialty facilities in upstate South Carolina. The 1,268-bed system is home to 14 medical residency and fellowship programs and the state’s largest number of active clinical trials – 600+. For the fourth consecutive year, its flagship Greenville Memorial Hospital was ranked among the nation’s top 50 hospitals in a specialty area in U.S. News’ America’s Best Hospitals. In July 2012, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville opened a four-year medical school at GHS. For more information, visit