By LOIS KINDLE
Emily Gempler, 23, is a busy woman these days. While working two part-time jobs, she’s studying to become a paramedic at Hillsborough Community College SouthShore. What’s more, the Ruskin resident wants to become an osteopathic physician, has applied to medical schools throughout the country and volunteers as an emergency medical technician on Sun City Center Emergency Squad’s Team 1.
“I originally wanted to become a science teacher and work in a rural, underserved area,” said the Lennard High School graduate, whose mother, Cynthia Sherry, is a guidance counselor at Lennard and a former teacher of 22 years. “But after taking an education class at USF and observing a classroom setting, I decided that wasn’t for me.”
Gempler went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science and graduated from the University of South Florida in 2015. During her time there, she had an experience that changed the direction of her life.
“I shadowed a general surgeon in Manatee County and fell in love with the way he interacted with his patients and how he used science and teamwork to help heal them,” she said. “That’s when I decided to go into medicine.”
Gempler added her interests currently lie in emergency medicine or family practice.
After finishing her bachelor’s degree, Gempler volunteered for the Sun City Center Emergency Squad and trained part time for 15 days as an emergency medical responder. Her on-the-job responsibilities included quickly looking for a Do Not Resuscitate order, performing CPR if necessary and gathering the patient’s medical history, medications list and vital information.
After a year as an EMR, she trained for 16 weeks at Hillsborough Community College SouthShore at the squad’s expense as an emergency medical technician. She contractually agreed to provide 90-volunteer-squad days over the next two years in return, after passing her exams and receiving licensure from the state.
“When I first started with the emergency squad, I was 21 and eager to interact with patients,” she said. “My grandmother lives in Sun City Center, and I’ve lived in the area the past eight years. I see South Shore as one big community, and I’m a part of it. I wanted to give something back.
“I also found the idea of riding in an ambulance exciting,” she said, smiling.
Carol Kennedy, 76, likes her granddaughter’s choices.
“She always had an eye for science and a good mind for that,” she said. “And she loves people.
“I’m very proud she gives time to the emergency squad. I’ve had to call (on its services) myself. It’s an important service to the community.”
As an EMT, Gempler leads her ambulance team for eight hours every eight days.
“My experience with the squad has grounded me in emergency situations,” she said. “I’m required to think calmly, evaluate patients and know when to call in Fire Rescue.
“The members of the squad have become my family,” she continued. “I learn something every time I work with them and our patients.”
One of her teammates is Marilyn Navarro, an EMT and the squad’s assistant chief of public affairs.
“We’ve become good friends, but once we get into an ambulance she’s all business. As an EMT, she’s in charge of the crew and makes it very clear what she expects of us.
“From the very beginning I was impressed with her compassion and exceptional work ethic,” she continued. “And considering her age, her empathy for Sun City Center seniors is impressive.”
Gempler completed a master’s degree in medical science at USF on Aug. 5 and will finish her paramedic training next year. In her spare time, whenever that is, she enjoys fishing, kayaking, reading and visiting art museums.
“I just wish more younger people would get involved with the squad,” she said. “One of my regrets is that I didn’t start sooner.”
Gempler said young folks shouldn’t hesitate to volunteer for the squad.
“This is a place of love and comfort, of neighbors helping neighbors. There’s nothing to be afraid of. The job is a great introduction to the field of medicine, regardless of what profession you’re thinking of going into.
(The work experience) is a good thing to have on a job application or resume. And all training is free.
For more information on the Sun City Center Emergency Squad or to volunteer, call 813-633-1411 or stop by 720 Ray Watson Drive. Donations are always appreciated.