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FIVE QUAD: 30 Years of Service

by Greta Petry (October 10, 2003)

If you were having chest pains on the University at Albany campus, who would take you to the hospital?

If you are a member of the faculty, staff, or a student, you would be transported by Five Quad Volunteer Ambulance Service Inc., which has been organized and staffed by UAlbany students for the past 30 years.

Five Quad members JEFF TOOKER and SCOTT WILK recently transported a patient who was having severe chest pains to a local hospital. Tooker is a history major; Wilk, an accounting major.

“We got the gentleman into his hospital room and the doctors and nurses immediately began to take care of him,” said Tooker, 19, a junior from East Greenbush. A few minutes later, the two UAlbany volunteers dropped off their paperwork at the nurses’ station. “The emergency room doctor turned to us and said, ‘Good job, boys. Thanks.’ An ER doctor telling a history major and an accounting major ‘good job’ with a seriously ill patient? I had never been thanked by a doctor prior to that day. That compliment will be remembered for a long time!” Tooker said.

Tooker and Wilk belong to the student-run ambulance service that has been a fixture on the University at Albany campus since October 1973. Tooker is director of operations; Wilk, 20, is vice president.

Five Quad President JESSICA ENGLE, 21, of Goshen, N.Y., is a senior human biology/prehealth major with medical school plans. “I came to this organization looking to gain hands-on exposure to the medical field…I was a lifeguard for three years before I joined Five Quad. Volunteering has always been a major part of my life.”

Today there are about 70 active members in the organization, which has a Student Association-funded budget of $84,000. While the two Five Quad ambulances are often seen around campus, what is not as visible is the level of commitment these students exhibit by volunteering round the clock while they could be working for pay or socializing.

According to Tooker, the greatest challenge in volunteering for Five Quad is the fact that “we strive to be in service to the University community 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even with lots of people to staff, there are still the occasional gaps in the schedule. Sometimes we need to make personal sacrifices and ride the ambulance for a few hours.”

Five Quad members give from 20 to 40 hours a week of their time to answer some 600 calls during the academic year. Members receive extensive training in American Red Cross cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid. Each crew that responds to an emergency includes at least two New York State-certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs).

When school is not in session, some members serve with their local fire department or other service organization back home. Captain MATTHEW FIELD, 21, a senior communication major, is a firefighter and EMT with the Merrick Fire Department. During the summer he is an EMT at Jones Beach. Wilk is an Eagle Scout for whom helping out comes naturally.

Five Quad’s good reputation extends beyond Albany. Just days after the September 11 attack two years ago, Field and past president RANDY GRANT went to Ground Zero with a small group of Five Quad members at the invitation of the State Emergency Management Organization (SEMO). “Matt Field and I are the only ones left who participated,” said Grant, 27, a senior mathematics major who plans to go to medical school. At Ground Zero their function was “to provide EMS for any emergency personnel who were injured while looking through the rubble,” said Grant, who is married to Carly Grant of the Advancement Events office.

Thinking back to 9/11/2001, Field said he lost “343 brother firefighters, a few of whom I knew personally, so it was tough.” He remembers one woman who was searching for her husband, an FDNY fireman. She had not eaten for days. “We treated her, and mostly consoled her. We were her ears for that short time so she could vent, and someone was there to listen... this gave us a sense of purpose,” said Field.

Back at home at UAlbany, a memorable call came when he treated a patient who was having symptoms of heat stroke. “My driver and I came across this patient and immediately started patient care,” he said. Due to the serious nature of the call, they did not have time to wait for paramedics to arrive, so they continued care while enroute to the hospital. They arrived in minutes. “The nurses praised us for a job well done, as this patient was in critical condition. The patient was doing well just hours later, and is now fully recovered,” Field said.

Five Quad’s faculty adviser, JOHN MURPHY from the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, spoke of the volunteers proudly. “Five Quad student volunteers have been a joy to work with because of their professionalism, dedication, enthusiasm, and commitment to providing high-quality first response care to our faculty, staff, and especially our students. It has been an honor to serve as their faculty adviser for the past couple of years, and I congratulate them on 30 years of voluntarism to our campus community,” Murphy said.

LESLIE LAWRENCE, M.D., Five Quad medical adviser and director of the Uni versity Health Center, said Five Quad is a tremendous service that potentially saves lives while saving students money. “Because Five Quad is located on the campus, it is capable of responding to emergencies much faster than an outside ambulance company could. When it comes to medical emergencies, time equals lives. The simple fact that Five Quad is located on campus will, over time, result in a few lives being saved that otherwise would not have been.”

He said the Student Association investment of $84,000 pays for itself three and a half times over. “Each transport to a hospital by a private ambulance company would cost anywhere from $300 to $900. Five Quad had approximately 600 transports last year, and if we allow that the average cost for a transport would be about $450, then Five Quad saved the students of this campus $270,000.”

DOUG KERN of the University Police Department said, “I have been on the Five Quad board of directors for 10 years, and it is a privilege to work with these students. They are the best of the best because they are the embodiment of service to our community.”

To contact Five Quad in an emergency, dial 911. Those interested in joining Five Quad may call membership officer ALLISON WALKER at (518) 378-2690 or send her an e-mail at:, or to

As for the rewards, Tooker put it succinctly: “The greatest reward is knowing that I am using my medical training to make a positive difference in somebody’s life when they need help… and working with a great group of EMTs is also a bonus.”


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