The Penn Medical Emergency Response Team was founded in 2006 by Andrew Mener C’07, Evan Silverstein E’06, Adam Novick C’08 and Jacob Bevilacqua N’09. Andrew first conceived of the idea in 2003 after witnessing a prolonged ambulance response time one afternoon in the Quad. Evan and Andrew assembled the leadership team comprised of students with EMS experience spanning all five undergraduate schools, the medical school, and the law school. The team with University administrators and physicians in Student Health Services, the Division of Public Safety, Housing and Conferences Services, the Fox Leadership Program, the Vice Provost for University Life Division and other departments to craft a proposal that met the needs of the campus community. In attempt to minimize cost and guarantee the shortest possible response times Penn MERT decided to pursue a first response team that would use specially equipped EMS bicycles to respond to medical emergencies. The Undergraduate Assembly unanimously supported the proposal and two successive UA administrations worked closely with the MERT leadership to establish the team.
Nonetheless, the initial proposal was met with considerable resistance from the administration due to concerns over the sustainability of the program, the projected cost of the program, and the questionable need for a first response team on Penn’s campus. In cooperation with the Penn Police Department, the issue of need was addressed. A four-month long response time survey to record exact ambulance response times to campus medical emergencies was conducted, compiled, and analyzed. The results of the study demonstrated unequivocally the benefits of providing first response coverage to the campus community. The issue of sustainability was addressed by MERT’s sponsorship of biannual on-campus EMT classes starting in 2004. By 2006 MERT had trained over 50 new EMTs all of whom were eager to participate in the MERT program. Penn MERT also sponsored a CPR instructor class and proceeded to train students to perform the lifesaving skill. In late 2005, The Fox Leadership Program sponsored a lunch where MERT students and University administrators had the opportunity to mingle; the student excitement was palpable. By January 2006 there were indication that support for the program was growing amongst the administration. However, funding and space issues had yet to be addressed.
In preparation for Spring Fling 2006, the January 2006 University Council meeting was dedicated to finding constructive ways that students could take responsibility for caring for their peers during large university events. Many student groups had worthwhile proposals but few truly addressed the issue at hand. Andrew Mener was a member of the Council at that time and briefly explained to University administrators, faculty, and students the three-year long initiative to create a program in which students would take responsibility for the health and safety of their peers. The very next day Penn MERT received its final approval to run a one-year long pilot program. The University allocated a budget and space for a headquarters as well as instructed the MERT leadership to be operative by Spring Fling 2006. Between January and April 2006 Penn MERT assembled its first operational board headed by the MERT co-Founders. On April 6, 2006 the administration sponsored the MERT Inauguration Ceremony which took place on College Green and was broadcast on CBS as well as covered in the Philadelphia METRO and the Daily Pennsylvanian.