Readers of the AHA CPR & First Aid Blog are no strangers to teaching CPR. However, few focus almost exclusively on the next generation of lifesavers like Evelyn Massey, MD, does.
Dr. Massey serves as director of life support education at Loma Linda University in California, where she administers a program that aims to train 50,000 high school, college and community students in CPR by 2020. Currently, she has trained 7,000+ students and counting.
“We start with the basics of ‘what is a heart attack, and how is it different than cardiac arrest? and then teach the skills required to handle a cardiac arrest situation in real life,” explains Dr. Massey. “This starts with promoting awareness in elementary school and beyond. We begin simple with Hands-Only CPR (HOCPR) with middle school, and then work with the teenagers in high school on more advanced programs.”
The motivations for Dr. Massey’s work are personal. Her father passed away from cardiovascular complications when he was only 58 – far too young and too soon. Her work is fueled by the desire to train others so that no one else loses a loved one that could have been saved.
“Today I work in administration, but by doing so I’m able to save lives. Schools are an incredibly important – and in some communities, underserved – target,” continues Dr. Massey. “For instance, one of our high school trainees came home one day to find her father face down on the floor, suffering cardiac arrest. She called 9-1-1 and started chest compressions. She continued for 20 minutes without pausing, and today her father is alive and well.
“This girl is a hero, all because she had been given the emergency training she needed while at school.”
The minutes before even EMS arrives matter the most. Most often, if a patient is brought to the hospital without having received compressions, it will be too late.
So why teach children?
“Because they’re everywhere!” exclaims Dr. Massey. “Someone at school, the mall, church or anywhere can collapse. Youth are often the only ones present – especially among peer groups – and they need to be able to act until EMS arrives.”
Not unexpected, her work has inspired a spike in interest in medicine as a career by providing students a practical introduction. Moreover, Dr. Massey is grateful to the state of California for some help in this regard—and to the AHA for their efforts to expand CPR in Schools education legislation across the United States.
“California requires high school students pursuing medicine to be trained in CPR and for schools teaching health education to offer CPR training,” says Dr. Massey. “It is a good law, but we should expand it. I would like to see kids choosing medical fields to receive more advanced medical and first aid training, and for all students to have the basics in Hands-Only CPR.
“It is a life-saving skill for everyone to know.”