Student EMT responds to the call to combat COVID-19

Photo courtesy of Collin Lee
By Ashley A. Williams

Photo courtesy of Collin Lee

Student EMT responds to the call to combat COVID-19

By Ashley A. Williams
Whether at the University of Miami or at a field hospital in Santa Clara, California, sophomore Collin Lee answers his calling to help others.

It’s a Tuesday evening during the current, global pandemic and Collin Lee, a sophomore at the University of Miami, received a call from Team Rubicon, a nonprofit natural disaster response organization, that his emergency medical technician (EMT) skills were needed on the other side of the country. The voice on the telephone on that March 31 evening explained that his deployment to Santa Clara, California, would be in less than 12 hours.

“It was a frenzy to get things together,” said Lee, who was living at his family home in Richmond, Virginia, and attending classes remotely. “After that call, I ran through my head to make sure I had everything I needed to be away from home for a month. I made sure to pack my UM shirts and enough scrubs.”

The moment Lee landed, he quickly moved into action as one of the many volunteers staffing the makeshift medical center. He will be there through the month of April, and he works the nightshift—so that he can focus on his studies during the day—assisting patients who are recovering from the novel coronavirus. Throughout his 12-hour shift, he performs basic wellness checks, checks vitals, and handles other non-COVID-19 related medical care.

“I’m out the door at about 5:30 every evening, making my way to the Santa Clara Convention Center, where we eat a meal before transitioning into our hot zone,” Lee said, referring to the other volunteers that include doctors, nurses, and EMTs. “Team Rubicon wanted to provide a safe place for patients to be without having to go home and possibly infect their family and loved ones.”

Before entering the hot zone, or field hospital, Lee said it takes about 10 minutes to properly adjust his personal protective equipment. 

“We wear a full gown that covers our body, two layers of gloves, a mask, a face shield, and a bonnet as well,” he said. “We work together to get this done and we also have someone there to check us before entering the area.”

Lee is no stranger to splitting time between his academics and helping others. He began his work in emergency services when he was just a junior in high school. On nights and weekends, he took courses to become a certified EMT. Through graduation, he volunteered with the local fire department.

Now, as a marketing and entrepreneurship double major, he juggles five courses along with his EMT work. When he was on campus, he worked at both The Launch Pad as a venture consultant and as an intramural supervisor for the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center. Lee said both roles allow him to see others grow professionally and personally. 

“I find passion in helping others,” Lee said. “While I don’t plan on pursuing health care as a career, I think everybody should have the knowledge and know-how to save someone’s life if necessary.”

Lee looks forward to returning to the University campus to continue mentoring his peers one day. For now, he will continue providing assistance to those on the mend from COVID-19.

“I tell people that I rather it be me,” Lee said. “I’m a pretty healthy 20-year-old, and I’m glad that I have the training to be able to come down here and respond.”