The weather forecast for Commencement Day remained uncertain until the last possible moment. But as MIT’s Class of 2017 received their degrees on June 9, MIT Medical staffers and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) from the student-run MIT Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were on hand and prepared for whatever the day might bring.
Leading the charge was MIT Medical Urgent Care Physician Colleen Collins. Though just two weeks into her position at MIT, Collins had previous “medical tent” experience, having worked the Boston Marathon during her residency at Boston City Hospital in the late 1980s. Joining her in Killian Court were Commencement veterans David Diamond, M.D., who divided his time between the medical tent and MIT’s Emergency Operations Center, and nurse Anne Marcoux and EMTs Amelia Bryan, Harrison Kaplan, Kyle Kotowick, Lawrence Wong, Anjali Misra, Burhan Azeem, Ann Liu, Darnell Granberry, Aria Shi, Melody Tan, Hope Chen, Logan Abel, Alice Zhou, Danielle Gruen, and Elizabeth DeTienne.
“Thankfully, there were no transports during commencement,” reports Kaplan, director of ambulance operations for MIT EMS, although EMTs were called out for an unrelated incident prior to the start of the day’s events. But even without transports, crew members were kept busy assisting MIT Medical clinicians with visitors to the medical tent.
With a much sunnier day than predicted, many graduation attendees stopped by the tent to request sunscreen. “However, apart from sunblock and the always-popular ‘need for Band-Aids secondary to shoe trauma’ complaints, we had some genuinely sick patients as well,” Marcoux reports.
“We saw patients of all ages,” Collins says, “from graduates and family members to event staff. We treated people for leg cramps, dehydration, nausea and vomiting, and near syncope—or fainting.”
“This year was busy,” Marcoux agrees. “It was clear that people needed us and appreciated that we were there. I gave a tour of the tent to a man from Purdue who works in the student health center there; he was impressed with how robust it was.”
But, she notes, there’s always room for improvement. “With every Commencement, we think about additional supplies we might stock or things we might do differently in the future,” she explains, and in that regard, Collins’s fresh set of eyes came in handy. “Having a new doctor in the tent helped us to brainstorm more and come up with some good ideas for next year,” she says.
As for Collins, she came away from her first MIT Commencement “grateful to be included” in such a big day for the community. “The sheer diversity and inclusivity on display was impressive,” she says. She also expressed admiration for her fellow clinicians and the MIT EMS volunteers, most of whom she was meeting for the first time. “Many EMTs told me that working with MIT Medical was their most valuable experience as students at MIT. Witnessing the caring and collaborative support MIT marshals for their students was the most moving part of the event for me.”
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