EMS Program hosts helicopter fly-ins on campus


Brad Stout | The Chart

A helicopter pilot with Air Methods talks to students from Southern’s Advanced Paramedic Skills course about the proper way to approach a helicopter after it has landd at the scene of an emergency.

Ambulances, fire trucks and police cars from all across the region converged onto the Missouri Southern campus shortly after noon March 2 and quickly made their way to the Julio S. Leon Health Sciences Building as a Medlife emergency helicopter made its approach. A landing zone for the helicopter is cleared in the grassy area between the health science building and the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center, allowing it to touch down. Unbeknown to the many Southern students watching from afar, the commotion is nothing more than the University EMS program’s Helicopter Fly-In and Open House event.

According to Thad Torix, EMS instructor and clinical coordinator, the EMS program’s first ever Helicopter Fly-In and Open House event began as a way to provide students in the Advanced Paramedic Skills course with proper landing zone education, which is required of the program.

“We can accomplish that with just a simple lecture,” said Torix. “We don’t have to go above and beyond, but that’s boring. We don’t want to make it boring. We want it to be exciting.”

When it came time to instruct his students how to behave in and around a landing zone when a helicopter is on the ground, Torix decided to use his contacts with several area emergency services to help make the occasion more interesting.

“I used to be a flight paramedic in my past, so I am friends with several of the helicopter professionals around here,”said Torix. “ So, I just start calling folks and saying ‘Hey, would you be interested in coming and showing off your aircraft and letting our students see what it takes to get ready for a landing zone and what it takes to load the patient in the aircraft?’ And they all said ‘Yes, absolutely we will.’”

Emergency helicopters from Medflight, EagleMed, Mercy Life Line and Cox Air Care all flew in to take part in the event, allowing the students to not only learn about landing zones, but to also explore any interests they might have in air medicine.

“A lot of paramedic students have it as a goal to be a flight paramedic,” said Torix. “It’s a glamorous job, it’s a highly sought after job. For them to have the opportunity, not just to see the helicopters, but to interact with the crews from each one of those aircraft is something that is not easily attainable for a lot of regular paramedics, let alone paramedic students.”

In addition to the four helicopters, over 20 different emergency services agencies were represented during the open house, providing paramedic students the opportunity to interact with potential employers.

“The overwhelming majority of the vendors that were here were employers and they were very much seeking our students,” said Torix. “When a paramedic finishes paramedic school, it is generally not a question of if they’re going to get a job, it’s a question of which place that wants them will they go to.”

Despite a few parking issues Torix plans to address for any future occasions, he believes the event was an success and is happy with the overall outcome.

“It’s nice to be able to have an event where we serve students and serve professionals and serve the public all at the same time.”

For more information regarding the University’s EMS program, contact Torix at (417) 625-3013.