Teaching Teachers How to Save Lives

Over the span of two days during Labor Day weekend, Harvard College Red Cross Club volunteers certified the teaching staff of the course Computer Science 50 (CS50) in First Aid/CPR/AED. CS50 is currently the largest on-campus class at Harvard University, with around 80 total staff and 800 students enrolled at this time last year. This weekend, thirty-eight CS50 TF’s — who are themselves undergraduates at Harvard — participated in one of two three-hour trainings led by instructors Maria Zlatkova and Waverley He.

Harvard College Red Cross Club volunteer instructors and students pose after their First Aid/CPR/AED Class at the CS50 Offices

Harvard College Red Cross Club volunteer instructors and students pose after their First Aid/CPR/AED Class at the CS50 Offices. Photo taken by Winnie Wu, Harvard undergraduate and CS50 photographer.

These trainings mark the second time that all of the course’s Teaching Fellows (TF’s) were encouraged to participate in health and read more here about safety preparedness. David J. Malan, the professor of the course, hopes that the “tradition” will continue.

CS50 is an introductory computer science course known for hosting large student events, which include an all-night hackathon and a fair at the end of the semester. Two years ago, teaching staff were confronted by minor medical emergencies at each of these events. One student was transported to the hospital towards the end of the hackathon and one student suffered a head injury at the fair. Both cases were caused by simple factors (namely, lack of sleep) and emergency services were called immediately. However, these events called attention to a need for preparedness. Malan, who has had his EMTB license for almost ten years, also pointed to the increasing size of the class as a reason to certify TFs.

“Being certified makes me feel more comfortable, if not obligated, to do something [in the case of a medical emergency]. If you wait for someone else to respond and everybody shares the same mentality, nobody will react. […] It is helpful to know that someone will own the situation”, said Malan. He also added that he would love to see a point where every undergraduate becomes CPR certified, but that might still be a while from now.

A CS50 TF practices CPR chest compressions on a manikin. Photo taken by Winnie Wu.

A CS50 TF practices CPR chest compressions on a manikin. Photo taken by Winnie Wu.

The teaching staff of CS50 is only one group of many to have been certified in First Aid/CPR/AED at Harvard. Red Cross Club student instructors have each taught community classes at the Massachusetts American Red Cross chapter in Cambridge, and they plan to continue offering classes to interested students in upperclassmen houses. Instructor Spencer Dunleavy also spent his summer in Boston certifying student leaders in the local Summer Urban Program, which connects students with summer volunteer opportunities.

When asked why he chose to become a First Aid/CPR/AED Instructor, Dunleavy said that he “teach[es] because everyone should be able to help someone else who needs assistance. […] Through teaching, [he] can help to save potentially dozens or hundreds through the efforts of my students. It’s like a pyramid scheme where everyone actually does profit.”

Harvard College Red Cross Club volunteers value the idea of youth impacting other youth, and this idea is made clear through not only the classes they teach, but also the events they organize. Last year, they hosted four week-long blood drives (raising almost 1,000 pints of blood and saving almost 3,000 lives) and an International Humanitarian Law Action Campaign forum with refugee and expert panelists.

It is still early in the school year, but these volunteers are excited to continue impacting their peers and their campus community.

To learn more about becoming a CPR/First Aid/AED instructor or about hosting a blood drive, visit http://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/program-highlights/instructor-training or contact your local chapter.

– Waverley He, National Youth Council YouthWire Editor and Harvard College Red Cross Club First Aid/CPR/AED Instructor

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