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Volunteers help Scouts be 'Always Prepared'

Published on Thursday, February 2, 2017

Media Contact: Karen Bascom at 601-815-3940 or kbascom@umc.edu.

Published in News Stories on February 02, 2017

Despite their attempts, the boys could not resuscitate Annie. However, their efforts were not in vain.

That's because Annie was never alive; she's a mannequin used to teach CPR. And thanks to University of Mississippi Medical Center volunteers, dozens of Boy Scouts are better prepared to earn a first aid merit badge and maybe save a life.

More than 100 Boy Scouts from the metro-area Andrew Jackson Council attended the second annual STEM Weekend at Tougaloo College Saturday, Jan. 28. Students and faculty from UMMC led badge sessions related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


“The event leverages the resources at UMMC to teach the skills needed for these merit badges,” said Dr. Loretta Jackson-Williams, vice dean for medical education and a coordinator for the event.

During the day, scouts worked on their choice of two merit badges from astronomy, dentistry, emergency preparedness, first aid, medicine, nuclear science, plant science and public health.

In the first aid class, they learned about animal bites and EpiPens, in addition to practicing chest compressions.

“You have to put hard pressure” on the mannequin, said scout Ian Champney of Jackson, 10, after he practiced CPR. “You need to imagine it's a person and pretend that you're saving their life.”

However, their actions before any life-saving technique are important too, said second-year medical student, or M2, R.J. Case of Hernando.

Case and M2 Dennis Sanders teach CPR to Boy Scouts.
Case and M2 Dennis Sanders teach CPR to Boy Scouts.

“First, check your surroundings,” said Case, who taught first aid with M2 Dennis Sanders. “You need to stop and think. If there's something that could hurt you, don't rush in to help. If you do, then there could be two people who need to be rescued, not just one.”

All session leaders must follow the Boy Scouts of America merit badge guidelines to plan their lessons. If a scout needs to demonstrate a skill, then they should learn how to do it first, preferably from someone with experience.

“I draw heavily on my knowledge and experience as a BSA lifeguard, an EMT and a medical student when I teach first aid,” said Case, an Eagle Scout. He said that while it's difficult to condense the advanced information into a lesson plan for youth, it's a worthwhile exercise.

“This process helps me learn to better communicate with my future patients, and hopefully it helps the scouts learn something as well,” he said.

Sanders and Case explain where and how to take a pulse to Jackson-area Boy Scouts.
Sanders and Case explain where and how to take a pulse to Jackson-area Boy Scouts.

For the emergency preparedness merit badge, scouts learned how to react to dangerous scenarios, like being stranded in an automobile or an accidental poisoning. Or, maybe just an unpleasant situation.

“Who should I call if I drink old milk?” one boy asked. (Answer: Not Poison Control; that's for non-food. You will probably be alright.)

“It's always fun to hear the questions the kids come up with during the classroom portion,” said M3 Dusty Bratton, who led the merit badge class.

“I've spent a good deal of time in the [UMMC] emergency department,” said Bratton of Brookhaven, who plans to become an emergency medicine physician. “I used a lot of the things I've learned there in my lesson.”

Bratton and M3 Jillian Merica then brought the Boy Scouts outside to practice rescue carries. Weaving arms and hands, they learned the best ways to move an injured person to safety. Merica, who grew up in Michigan and now lives in Jackson, said this was the most fun part of the lesson.

“The most rewarding part of the experience was the prospect that the scouts learned information that could help save their life or someone else's,” she said.

Bratton supervises as Ashland Clark, 12, of Raymond carries Timothy Pepper, 11, of Pearl to safety.
Bratton supervises as Ashland Clark, 12, of Raymond carries Timothy Pepper, 11, of Pearl to safety.

Several boys at the STEM Weekend aspire to become Eagle Scouts, the highest ranking in the organization. To earn that honor, they must complete a service project and at least 21 merit badges, including first aid. Emergency preparedness is also recommended.

But to advance, the scouts first need to finish the remaining requirements on each badge. Medicine mandates scouts to volunteer at a blood drive or health fair; dentistry includes a clinic visit. This follow-through demonstrates perseverance, one of many qualities the Boy Scouts of America promotes.

“When people see 'Eagle Scout' on an application, they see someone who is dedicated,” said Jackson-Williams. “It demonstrates a sustained effort. This is a great quality for anyone who is going to pursue a career without instant gratification,” such as health care.

She also knows the opportunities that come from scouting.

Boy Scout Jarred Caston, 13, of Jackson tries his hands at chest compressions.
Boy Scout Jarred Caston, 13, of Jackson tries his hands at chest compressions.

“Scouting not only connected me to people in the community but people across the country,” she said of her 11 years as a Girl Scout. “Events like [STEM Weekend] open the boy's eyes to opportunities right outside their backdoor.”

Dan Edwards, scoutmaster for Troop 178 in Brandon, agrees.

“We're a relatively new troop, and this was a great opportunity for the boys to earn their first merit badges,” he said.

 Edwards' son, Grayson, 13, spent the morning working on the medicine badge. The highlight? Seeing his instructor's retina using an ophthalmoscope.

“It was weird!” Grayson said.

Apparently, the eyes have it, as other scouts recalled the demonstration with excitement.

“We got to see his retina!” “It was cool!” “It was gross!”

It's this curiosity and delight in interactive learning that made volunteering fun, Jackson-Williams said. In coming years, she hopes that the event can become a regular part of UMMC's community engagement and service learning opportunities.

“Volunteering gives me a chance to give back to others and connect with people in the community,” Bratton said. “I always come out of the experience with new insights.”