• EMT Anita Wamakima, ’15, monitors the vital signs of a badly chilled patient in the medical tent at MIT’s 2013 Commencement.

    Photo: Kim Schive

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  • MIT EMS Clinical Director Mark Forgues, checks in with an elderly Commencement guest while distributing space blankets at MIT’s 2013 Commencement.

    Photo: Kim Schive

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MIT Medical offers a warm welcome to a cold Commencement

When the Class of 2013 graduated from MIT on June 7, MIT Medical was on the front lines as always, this year unified by a singular goal — to help graduates and guests cope with unseasonably cool, damp weather.

"This is the first year I can remember when all but one person coming to the medical tent had the same complaint. Cold and wet," says Triage Nurse Lynn Forgues, who has been part of the medical team at Commencement for 12 years. "While some people came prepared for the weather, others seemed to think that a June day in New England would be warm and sunny." On the bright side, she added, "we had no illnesses, chest pains, dehydration or slip-and-fall injuries, a big surprise to us given the wet ground surfaces."

Staffing the medical tent on the Memorial Drive end of Killian Court along with Forgues were emergency medical technicians (EMTs) Anita Wamakima '15, Jordan Taylor '11 and Shirley Mao '14, from MIT EMS, MIT's student-run ambulance service. They were joined by MIT EMS Technical Director Mark Forgues, Primary Care Physician Carroll Eastman, Nurse Maura Rowley, clinical coordinator of MIT Medical's Community Care Center, and Maryanne Kirkbride, clinical director for campus life.

The medical team in the tent treated more than 20 very chilled people ranging in age from 10 to 89, monitoring their vital signs and warming them up with a heat fan, blankets and hot packs. Other EMTs and volunteers spent the day outside, braving the elements to help attendees stay warm and dry and paying special attention to the "red coats," MIT's 50th reunion class, and individuals sitting in the special section for individuals with disabilities. Over the course of the morning, Forgues reports, they distributed thousands of rain ponchos and approximately 2,700 space blankets, including those handed to every graduate returning to the seating section after receiving a diploma.

This was the first MIT Commencement for Rowley, who has been at MIT Medical for just about a year. "They thought of everything," she marvels. "When I arrived at the tent that morning, I found everything we might need — heater, blankets, IVs, cots and an array of necessary meds. Like everything else here, it was impressively organized." Rowley says she also appreciated the opportunity to spend an extended period of time working with the student EMTs. "I really enjoyed seeing the bond they have with each other," she comments, noting that many of the EMTs who were graduating this year stopped by the medical tent to check in and exchange hugs after receiving their diplomas. "It was so cool to watch them work together," she says. "They are a real team and a credit to the Institute."

Both Forgues and Rowley commented on the joyous atmosphere in Killian Court. "Despite the rain and cold, everyone was so upbeat and jovial," Rowley says. "It was just as a graduation should be."

The festive atmosphere was not surprising to Forgues. "As always, MIT did what it needed to do to keep Commencement attendees safe and comfortable," she says. "It takes more than a rainy day to deter our hardy MIT graduates and their families."

Topics: Alumni/ae, Commencement, Community, MIT Medical, Students


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