MEHP Alum Teaches High School Students to Act in Emergencies

By Karen Blum 

Craig Goolsby, MD, FACEP (MEHP ’16), hopes that if high schoolers encounter someone with a life-threatening bleed, they think fast. Now he’s developed coursework offered through the American Red Cross to offer no-cost injury education to students.

The First Aid for Severe Trauma (FAST) course, which launched nationwide in August 2021, is being supported by a $2.5 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The curriculum developed by Goolsby and colleagues—including how to use a tourniquet, apply direct pressure on wounds and communicate in an emergency—is offered in three modalities: an in-person, instructor-led course with hands-on skills training; a blended version with online education and hands-on skills training; and an online-only training.

“It’s designed to teach the public, in particular high school students, what to do in the first few minutes after a severe injury that could be lifesaving before an ambulance can arrive,” says Goolsby, professor and vice chair of the Uniformed Services University’s (USU) Department of Military and Emergency Medicine and science director at USU’s National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health. The program also trains high school teachers to serve as course instructors; some 500 teachers around the country so far have had their skills verified by USU medical students working with Goolsby.

High school students are an ideal group because they’re highly motivated learners, Goolsby says. A program to teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in schools reaches around 2 million learners a year, he says: “We would like to see something similar for injury education.”

While designing the curriculum, Goolsby and colleagues worked with HOSA – Future Health Professionals, a national organization that supports career development in health professions. High school teacher consultants ensured the program materials had the right feel and logistics for classroom learning while high school students evaluated materials and provided feedback.

The team published two articles about their program. One, looking at high school students’ ability to learn hemorrhage-control knowledge and skills via the different modalities, was published in Academic Pediatrics. The second, describing the ability to train teachers virtually to become trainers for the program, was published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine. In November 2021, the FAST program won a platinum award for excellence in public safety from the American Security Today 2021 ASTORS Homeland Security Awards program.

Previously, Goolsby had been working for several years to support the national Stop the Bleed campaign. Started in 2015, the effort applies battlefield lessons to encourage bystanders to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.

“This has been a really interesting experience to think about education a little bit differently,” Goolsby says. “In health professions education, we automatically gravitate toward residency or medical student learners. I’ve tried in my work to keep the aperture pretty wide on what health education means. The chance to be able to create an impactful program like this for the public, and high school students in particular, has been really rewarding.”

For more information about the FAST program, see the American Red Cross or Department of Homeland Security websites. Click here to read a prior article about Goolsby’s work.

Craig Goolsby, MD, FACEP (MEHP ’16)