The importance of volunteer medical responders became suddenly clear to Janet Duncan a couple of years ago, when her husband fell critically ill from a post-surgical infection and a local fire department’s Emergency Medical Services van came screeching to her doorstep.
“They saved his life,” said Duncan, a SUNY Cortland professor and chair of the Foundations and Social Advocacy and Educational Leadership departments. “They got him to the hospital and he was fine. Really, they’re a volunteer force and that was quite impressive to me.”
Earlier this year, Duncan decided to pay it forward in a big way. She made a $10,000 commitment to a scholarship fund established by members of SUNY Cortland’s student-run volunteer emergency medical squad.
Duncan hadn’t really been aware of SUNY Cortland Emergency Medical Services (SCEMS) until she shared her personal story with the squad’s longtime advisor and number one fan, Marley Sweet Barduhn ’76, M ’79, SUNY Cortland’s assistant provost emerita.
“Marley said that we have a group right here on campus that’s doing that same thing. I really hadn’t thought about it,” Duncan said.
SCEMS is a campus club but it’s also a New York state recognized basic life support service. The squad isn’t an ambulance service but members are almost always the first emergency responders to reach the scene following a dispatcher’s call. The SCEMS members become state certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)/first aid or as emergency medical technicians. They offer the person in need immediate, professional help and evaluation while establishing a link to the next level of care.
“The students choose to be really giving back at a time where people are in a bad situation, either injured or sick or sad,” Duncan said. “These students really rise to the occasion and it’s the ultimate type of civic engagement.
“Marley explained what they were doing and how long they were doing this service work and how important it is to the local community,” Duncan said. “That’s something I’d really like to be able to support.”
So Duncan has made a 10-year commitment to contribute $1,000 per year, for a total of $10,000, to the Marley Barduhn SUNY Cortland EMS Award.
Created in April by squad members to honor Barduhn upon her retirement, the sponsored scholarship of at least $300 in tuition assistance will recognize annually a deserving SCEMS member who shows both dedication exceeding membership expectations and academic excellence.
“Dr. Barduhn is always willing to lend assistance or provide encouragement for her students in times of need,” said Aleena Kanner ’14, who was president and chief of the SCEMS when the award was created. “She values education along with helping others, which is the basis of this scholarship award.”
Barduhn, who has served the College since 1979 in capacities ranging from faculty member to high-ranking administrator, retired in December 2013, when she was invited to serve as a Global Fellow in the SUNY Office of Global Affairs.
But she continues to serve on the advisory board of the club/service organization that she began helping 36 years ago when the students first came knocking.
“I came to Cortland and the students found me,” Barduhn said. “They found I was an emergency medical technician and in fact I was an advanced EMT. They were in a very small office in Brockway (Hall) at first and had to carry 75 pounds of equipment from there to all calls.
“They have been there for any of the major events we’ve had where there have been injuries,” Barduhn said. “They have a special place in my heart always from the work they do.”
Today, piles of SCEMS pre-hospital report paperwork sit in Barduhn’s living room waiting for her to review for quality assurance. That review is one of the mandates for a state-recognized basic life support agency.
Barduhn will help select each year’s Marley Barduhn SUNY Cortland EMS Award recipient as long as she chooses.
“I think it’s amazing, really when you think about it,” Barduhn said. “The students worked on this award, they kept it secret all year long. At their annual banquet, they announced it. They are about helping other people. It’s really consistent with the belief and philosophy of EMS in helping and giving to others.
|Professor Janet Duncan has supported many College endeavors over the years.|
“Often students have given so much time to the agency that their own schoolwork does suffer occasionally,” she noted. “This is a way to give back to them in a kind of acknowledgement of their effort and their professionalism.”
“It’s a huge commitment when people take on those EMT roles in the own communities,” Duncan said. “And the people who do it tend to stick with it. They don’t just do it to put on their resume but it’s a sort of bug that they catch. Hopefully the scholarship money will help them flourish and get a little bit of tuition relief.”
On July 30, during her retirement party at Linani’s at the Manor in Homer, N.Y., 24 of Barduhn’s academic and professional colleagues and friends pooled their gifts totaling $3,000 to support the same fund. The Cortland College Foundation is managing the scholarship monies, according to Linda Battin, manager of financial operations for the foundation.
Everyone’s generosity to date ensures the award can be bestowed at the minimum level for many years to come, Battin said.
The gift will also serve to spotlight all that Barduhn has done for her alma mater’s emergency squad. In addition to advising the club for all these years, she was present to lend emotional support to them during major campus crises that impacted members personally. One was the sudden death of a beloved campus administrator closely tied to SCEMS, Michael C. Holland, who suffered a fatal heart attack while driving SCEMS members back to Cortland after helping with a flood cleanup in Binghamton. Another was the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which took a heavy emotional toll on the many SCEMS members whose families lived in the metropolitan New York area.
“I think a lot of her work was hidden work in many ways and that needed to be brought out a little bit more,” Duncan said. “I know it’s kind of a cliché, but there are the ones that run toward the danger instead of away from it and Marley is sort of like that, too, both professionally and personally. She is very warm and caring. She’s an inspiration to me. I know the students thought the same of her.”