Better Bystanders

20 minutes. Let’s save a life.

This ear-catching line is the motto of Heroes For Hearts (H4H), a non-profit organization whose mission is to teach compression-only Cardiopulmonary Resusci tation (CPR), Automated External Defibrillator (AED), and first aid training to the general public.

After learning about the increasing number of heart attacks and low rates of bystander CPR in the United States, School of Nursing and Health Studies undergraduates Brandon Ferrell (NHS’17) and Nirmal Maitra (NHS’17) founded H4H during their freshman year. Compelled by the lack of CPR training outside healthcare communities, the human science majors devoted themselves to making a difference.

“We were inspired to take something relatively simple—CPR—and come up with an innovative delivery system to increase the number of people reached, trained, and ready to perform it. We wanted to begin by reaching our immediate community first, but we have a vision of expanding to the greater nation as well as underserved global zones in the long run,” Maitra explains.

What resulted is Heroes for Hearts, an international non-profit with chapters in Washington, D.C., and India. Maitra is currently president and Ferrell is vice president. International health majors Michaela Hitchner (NHS’19) and May- Linh Huynh (NHS’19) serve as secretary and financial director, respectively. David Milzman, MD, professor of emergency medicine and associate dean for informatics and research at GUMC, serves as the group’s medical advisor.

Since 2008, the American Heart Association has recommended that bystanders use the hands-only method of CPR rather than the previously taught combination of compression and mouthto- mouth resuscitation. The compression- only method was developed and staunchly advocated by Georgetown fellow and former faculty member Gordon Ewy, MD (W’65), and his team at the Sarver Heart Center at University of Arizona. Although Ewy, who himself studied under W. Proctor Harvey at Georgetown, retired in 2012, his work continues to impact the Georgetown community today.

“The mission of our organization is to empower and better equip communities around the world to be prepared to safely and efficiently act in any situation in which CPR is required,” Ferrell explains. “Compression-only CPR can be taught in less than 20 minutes and is free-ofcost. Immediate compression-only CPR performed by a bystander has also been shown to improve survival in out-ofhospital cardiac arrests compared to CPR with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. While many people are hesitant to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, compression-only CPR has allowed H4H to extend CPR training to just about anyone.”

The group’s simple structural model complements its straightforward goal. Students form the backbone of H4H, and Georgetown’s global reach amplifies the impact.

“We recognize the power of the students around us at Georgetown,” Maitra explains. “Students are the key to efficiently and cost-effectively bringing this life-saving training to everyone. Not only does the student population regenerate each year, but most students travel from campus during the summers, too. We want to train and send them out into the respective communities they touch. We believe students can be utilized as a powerful force for constructive change.”

As of August, about 50 Georgetown students were involved in H4H, which met its goal of training 1,300 people by the end of the summer. The group hopes to expand nationally and internationally and train at least 10,000 community members by the end of 2017.

“In addition to training businesses, we are training families,” Ferrell says. “When an entire family learns CPR, you have prepared an entire household for an emergency. Kids too young to perform compressions can learn how to dial 911.”

The student group is gaining notice. Ferrell, Maitra, and Milzman have testified at D.C. Council hearings on two CPR-related bills. The second student-run chapter will open soon at another local university. Maitra and Ferrell, who are both pre-med, feel grateful for the opportunities they have on the Hilltop.

“We are very privileged to attend Georgetown, but it’s also a mandate to take what we learn and give back to the community,” Maitra says. “Heroes for Hearts enables us to put the Jesuit ideal of men and women for others into practice on a daily basis.”

By Melissa Maday