Students profiled 20 years ago discuss
the long-lasting impact of collegiate EMS
By Bradley Wilson, MPA, PhD
Houston firefighter Jim Schaferling has been a paramedic for 23 years. During that time, he’s worked his
fair share of sick-person calls and house fires.
However, when it comes to one of the worst
calls he’s ever run, well, that happened when
he was a college student working for Texas
A&M University EMS, an ALS care provider
staffed by college students.
Even today, he said he still thinks of that
call, part of what he termed “quite the experience for a bunch of 18–22 year olds” who
worked cardiac arrests, suicide attempts, burn
victims and violent assaults, because most were
fellow students around the same age.
But back to the call.
It was after a football game, and a family
of five was leaving the campus airport when
they crashed into the fire training academy
next to the airport.
“We were the first there. There were power
lines down, jet fuel everywhere, a fatality, but
worse were the survivors trapped in the wreck-
age screaming,” Schaferling said 20 years later.
“I still think of that day every time I fly or drive
by an airport and smell that sweet smell of jet
fuel. That is a lot to absorb at 21 years old, but
we helped each other cope with those things
and formed bonds that will last a lifetime.”
He was quick to note that his friends and the
bonds they shared are what he remembers most
about his first few years working in prehospital
healthcare, a career he started when he was 18.
“I could not wait to get on that ambulance,”
he said of his first days in College Station,
Texas, providing first aid at football games.
“The time we spent together on duty, the
crazy parties we had, the terrible experiences
we helped each other through have kept us
friends to this day,” said Schaferling.
“We kept that service running 24/7/365.
It was important for us to remain in service
to gain credibility with the big boys [College
Station and Bryan Fire].”
He wasn’t alone.
Jim Schaferling (left) and Aaron Segal at Texas A&M
University in 1997. Jim is now a paramedic and captain in the Houston Fire Department. Aaron is the
medical director for DaVita Medical Group in Denver.
Photos courtesy Bradley Wilson