TUCSON, Ariz. — A new degree program in emergency medical services is coming to the University of Arizona this fall. It's one of just a few programs nationwide administered through a clinical department.
EMTs and paramedics are the first and sometimes last line of defense for people who need medical care.
"Some people fall through the cracks," Dr. Josh Gaither said. "They may not have a primary care doctor, they may not have a home phone, they may not have a home address. Our EMS providers truly are their resource -- their access point to the healthcare system."
Now, the University of Arizona wants to give EMS providers the opportunity to take their service to the community one step further, with a degree program.
The Arizona Board of Regents approved the program in April.
Dr. Josh Gaither is an associate professor of emergency medicine at the UA.
"We're not saying that they need more training, that they aren't doing a great job already," Dr. Gaither said. "We need to train our paramedics to be leaders, educators, scientific thinkers. That's what this degree program is designed to do."
The program is thirty years in the making, Dr. Gaither said.
It's open to certified paramedics or those with an associate's degree in paramedic care. Classes will focus on enhancing leadership and clinical skills to keep EMTs and paramedics on the cutting edge of research and innovative techniques.
"What we want to do is take the people that are really good at their job already, and make them into leaders, make them better than they already are," Dr. Gaither said.
Students will get a unique opportunity to learn from EMS doctors and researchers.
"Our students will really have access to people who do this everyday -- live it, breathe it -- that type of thing."
Students can earn a major or a minor in the EMS degree program starting this fall.