Penn’s student Medical Emergency Response Team may seem rather enigmatic. The acronym MERT is heard frequently enough around campus, primarily in the form of a verb — getting “MERTed” — when someone has to be attended to for overdoing it on a weekend night. But many students don’t know much about the organization beyond its reputation as a fleet of late-night rescuers. In the coming week, MERT is working to show that its organization is even more than that through its inaugural First Aid Week, which stretches from Sunday to Friday.
“Last year we had a First Aid Festival to commemorate our 3,000th call,” said Sandra Loza-Avalos, College sophomore and MERT’s Disaster Response Team officer. “This year we made it this nice big event with all the partner organizations we have, and we wanted to extend it to a week.”
Loza-Avalos also hopes to generate interest through the overlap with the Penn Relays. “These events are open to anyone — not just Penn students. Since the First Aid Festival is happening during Penn Relays, hopefully we can get a large community showing,” she said.
First Aid Week kicked off on Sunday with safety classes for women throughout the day, led by Penn’s Division of Public Safety. For the rest of the week, MERT and its other partner organizations such as Student Health Services, the Consciousness Club and the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives will hold a variety of events all over campus. On Monday at 6 p.m. in Houston Hall there will be Health Jeopardy. Tuesday’s event is a panel called the Highs and Lows of Diabetes at 4 p.m. in Irvine. Interested people can catch a yoga class at 7 p.m. on Wednesday on College Green. The week culminates in this year’s First Aid Festival, which will be held on Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., also on College Green.
“At the First Aid Festival we plan to have games where people can interact with our equipment and get to know what we do and our services better, as well as the services that our partners provide,” Loza-Avalos said. Student EMTs from Drexel and Temple will be participating, as well as members of the Philadelphia Fire Department.
Also intrinsic to the process of putting the week together were College juniors Christine Hill, MERT’s Community Relations officer, and MERT Chief Sara Jones.
“Obviously everyone knows that we respond to calls and respond to drunk people … but we’re emphasizing that we are a health resource for all different types of situations,” Jones said. “We respond to a lot of people who are having panic attacks, so we’re showing that we can be a resource for all those things as well.”
Since next year marks MERT’s 10-year anniversary, Jones is hoping the week-long event will continue to grow. She said they plan to “expand it to Villanova’s EMS organizations, or La Salle or other local organizations and have it be a mini-collegiate EMS gathering.”
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