If Jacob Banas is described as something of an over-achiever, it might be well-deserved. The graduating college senior from Delmar, N.Y., near Albany, decided in the spring of his sophomore year to add a second major —organizational communication—to the English degree he was already pursuing. That meant adding a couple of 18-credit semesters to meet requirements for both degrees.
Then he also decided to start training as an EMT so he could begin volunteering for the Branchport-Keuka Park Fire department. By October of 2013, Banas had started his 160-hours of EMT training, even staying on campus over Winter break to continue four-hour class trainings on Tuesday and Thursday nights, that ran through March 2014.
“My Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would get up for my 8 a.m. class, and not stop till 11 p.m. and maybe be up later with homework,” he recalled. “It’s a miracle I survived that semester.”
But by April 2014, Banas had passed the EMT course —which he dubbed a “First Aid class on steroids”— and could begin volunteering as a first responder on emergency calls. Soon after, Banas also joined the ambulance corps in Penn Yan. More training hours were required and Banas was recently awarded the 2014-15 Yates County award for the most individual training hours in EMT service by any medic for the year. According to Banas, the 185 training hours he logged between 2014 and 2015 does not include his 145 hours on duty or additional volunteer hours with the fire department.
“It’s a surreal moment of closure for me as I’m finishing my time here at Keuka College, to be recognized by so many friends I’ve made at both departments,” he said, calling the award “a really nice recognition.”
Banas now holds basic EMT certification, which means there are limits to what he can do or the medications he can administer. At basic certification level, EMT’s can manage fractures, head/neck or back injuries, motor vehicle accidents, cardiac issues, or allergic reactions. However, basic EMT’s are not licensed to carry narcotics or perform emergency intubations to manually open a patient’s airway as a certified paramedic would be licensed, he said.
Banas said he tries to maintain at least one to two shifts a week at the ambulance corps. “Every now and then, there’s an emergency near the College that the fire department will be called to and I respond in my free time,” he said.
According to Asa Swick, director of operations for the Penn Yan Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Banas is often the first on-scene when an emergency call comes in for an incident on the College campus.
“Often, Jake is already there and he’s been able to assess and start a needed treatment and he knows so many of the staff and students, he’s on a first-name basis with most, and has a good handle how to best help them,” Swick said.
“College students make great responders, they’re looking for stuff to do in a new school, it benefits the community— it’s a win-win all the way around. Students are wonderful to work with because they already want to learn. You’re just providing them another opportunity (for an activity) and a skill they can use for the rest of their lives,” Swick said, noting that Banas’s reputation is “outstanding.”
“Jake is a great medic, gets along with everybody, and fits in really well. He’s told us that if he can find a job in his current field, he’d love to stay and we’d love to see that too. I’d love to have 20 college students that are as active, involved and dedicated as Jake. If I could have 20 Jakes, this community would be in really awesome shape,” Swick said.
And how does Banas see his EMT volunteer service fitting in with his unusual degree? It was just another step along his personal journey to discover his passions, he said. While he could see himself fitting into the medical field, patient care is not the strongest pull. When a friend’s mother suggested he consider hospital management, Banas began incorporating the suggestion into his required Field Period™ experiences.
In the winter of 2015, he conducted a Field Period™ in the PR department of the Albany Medical Center, writing press releases and updating a 60-page crisis communications plan, assisting staff who coordinated media interviews for the physicians and even going into the ER with a news crew to observe a patient’s deep-brain stimulation procedure. The news crew had been following the patient’s treatment for Parkinson’s disease so they were permitted in the operating room without violating patient privacy laws known as HIPPA laws.
Then, for spring semester 2015, Banas conducted his 80-hour senior practicum in the Community Services office of Finger Lakes Health in Geneva, so he could get a feel for similar work at a smaller hospital. He assisted staff on wellness programming to teach local schoolchildren better exercise and nutrition habits, ran the social media component of New Visions, an after-school program where high schoolers provide transport and food services to patients, and continued standard PR work writing press releases and maintaining a database of published media clips on Finger Lakes Health.
Between the two hands-on experiences, “it definitely confirmed for me that working in the hospital setting, but maybe not in patient care is where I’d see myself someday,” said Banas, who hopes to pursue a master’s in hospital administration in the future.
Before graduating with his dual degrees May 23, he accepted a position as Marketing and Visitor Services Assistant at the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection in Canandaigua.
Dr. Anita Chirco, professor of communication, has served as Banas’s academic advisor and said he exemplifies the “can-do, hands-on spirit of a true Keukonian.”
“On top of the countless hours he has put in to succeed at the double majors in English and Organizational Communication, the hours of training and volunteer service he has invested in his EMT work in Keuka Park and Penn Yan have enriched our college and community immeasurably. I am so proud of him,” she said.
Keuka College has received a gift from Donald and Christine Wertman of Hall, N.Y., to help establish the Keuka College Center for Business Analytics & Health Informatics.
Donald Wertman is COO of Seedway LLC, vice president of the Keuka College Board of Trustees, and sits on the Finger Lakes Health (FLH) Board of Directors.
The Wertmans are supporting the Center because of their interest in health care, in particular student wellness.
“While we support all areas of the College’s Long Range Strategic Plan, we are financially supporting the component of the plan that deals with student wellness in all forms—physical, mental, and spiritual,” said Donald Wertman. “Wellness is critically important to student success.”
FLH plans to partner with the College on the project because “we believe it has the potential to improve the struggling economy of Yates County while enhancing the region’s health education opportunities and access to health care services,” said Dr. Jose Acevedo, president and CEO of FLH.
Keuka College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera agrees.
“The Center will leverage the College’s existing health care expertise and programs through its highly rated nursing and occupational therapy programs,” said Díaz-Herrera.
Keuka offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing at sites around New York state through its Accelerated Studies for Adults (ASAP) program, as well as a bachelor’s degree in occupational science and master’s degree in occupational therapy on its home campus in Keuka Park.
Pending approval by the New York State Education Department, the College and FLH will jointly offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing beginning in fall 2014.
Díaz-Herrera expects the Center to anchor a new college-town development—called for in the strategic plan— that will become the hub for Yates County entrepreneurial programs and research.
Part of that college-town development could include a health clinic—perhaps managed by FLH—that would serve the needs of students and the community, according to Wertman.
While a health clinic remains only a possibility for now, there is no doubt that the Center for Business Analytics & Health Informatics would be a boon to Yates County in terms of jobs.
“The Center will provide the required infrastructure for expanding business opportunities and job creation in the region,” said Acevedo.
Díaz-Herrera said the Center will “create construction, high-tech, health sciences, and education jobs in addition to helping our region’s fastest growing employment sector train and retain a highly educated work force.
“The Center will help the county and region support the need for new high-tech industry development while providing health care workers with specific health informatics training,” said the president. “It is a perfect fit for our Digital Learning@Keuka initiative.”
“It’s clear,” said Wertman, “that the Center and partnership between Keuka College and FLH will not only be a win-win for both entities, but for our entire community. We trust that our gift will inspire others to evaluate how they might share resources in support of Keuka College’s strategic plan.”