Dirk Chisholm

Avenue Calgary’s 2016 Top 40 Under 40.

Photograph by Erin Brooke Burns. Photographed at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

Age: 21

Job title: Director of Operations for the Student Medical Response team at the University of Calgary

Why he’s a 2016 Top 40:

Chisholm is making the University of Calgary safer as co-founder of the Student Medical Response team, and also uses his EMT training to work in disaster-response during major catastrophic events.

It’s a good thing Dirk Chisholm didn’t fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a vacuum salesman. Instead of small-appliance sales, this native Calgarian spends his time helping people in emergencies.

The 21-year-old University of Calgary Health & Exercise Physiology student works as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for WinSport and Canada Task Force 2, which is a disaster-response team that heads to the scene when catastrophes, like the Fort McMurray wildfire, strike.

Chisholm also volunteers as the director of operations for the U of C’s Student Medical Response (SMR) team, an organization he co-founded. The SMR calls on a network of student volunteers with backgrounds in emergency response to provide free medical coverage for special events on campus, as well as support to campus security for day-to-day medical calls.

“With so many people on campus, stuff is bound to happen,” says Chisholm. “I really like the unpredictability of emergency medicine – every situation is always new. I like being able to help people when it’s not their best day.”

Having a first-response team on a university campus is not a new idea, but the U of C’s SMR is the first in Western Canada, and it also provides the highest level of care of any university campus in the country – it can treat up to the EMT level, which is the level of pre-hospital care that could be available in an ambulance. Last year, the SMR attended to heart attacks and traumatic injuries such as broken bones, among other medical emergencies. During 2015-16, its first full academic year in operation, the SMR grew from eight volunteers to more than 20, and covered 80 shifts on campus.

Chisholm began his career in emergency medicine at the age of 10, as a volunteer with St. John’s Ambulance, which had a youth program at that time. At 14, he performed CPR on a heart attack victim, an act that earned him recognition from St. John’s. And, at 18, he volunteered for emergency response with the organization during the 2013 southern Alberta floods.

Chisholm spends more than 800 hours volunteering every year, which equates to 20, 40-hour weeks of unpaid work. This go-getter, who aspires to be an emergency room physician, shrugs it off, saying, “If you’re passionate about something, it doesn’t really feel like work. I know that’s pretty clich, but it’s true.” – Lisa Kadane

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