Volunteer EMTs discuss medical interests and time with the Squad

By Linh Nguyen | Mar 15, 2018

Almost 80 years old, the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad is an integral part of both the town and community it serves, responding to thousands of calls in the local Princeton area each year.

According to its website, PFARS is an independent, non-profit emergency medical services organization heavily reliant on volunteers in the local area, many of whom are students at the University. The Daily Princetonian interviewed two of these student volunteers.


Nicholas Archer ’19

Archer first learned about PFARS the summer before his first year at the University while he was “surfing” the website of the Health Professions Advising Office.

“I came across the EMTs and thought it was really cool,” said Archer. “I went to an info session that they held on campus and I just applied freshman fall and started the EMT class freshman spring.”

Archer noted that his monthly routine with PFARS includes a minimum of 32 hours of on-call duty, as well as mandatory drills and meetings. As the corresponding secretary of the PFARS Executive Board, which directs and governs the organization, Archer oversees the volunteer application process. He also works on interviews, orientation sessions, and information sessions, culminating in approximately 40 hours with PFARS per month.

“When people first join, they really don’t know what to expect, and your experiences that you learn on duty are much different from what you learn in classes,” said Archer about his growth as an EMT. “You go from learning through asking questions to being more hands-on.”

A molecular biology concentrator from Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, Archer explained that his experience as an EMT “definitely validated and confirmed that medicine is what I want to do.”

“I had never really considered emergency medicine before, but I love how unpredictable it is and how it’s always something different,” said Archer. “I don’t know what specialty I’ll go into, but it’s caused me to be more hesitant about less hands-on medical professions.”

Although Archer has had an immensely positive experience with PFARS, he noted that he believes that emergency medicine is “not for everyone” and that not all pre-medical students may enjoy it equally.

“It’s a huge time commitment,” said Archer. “On top of that you need to be able to handle pretty intense and serious situations where people are very sick. But it’s something that can be valuable as a pre-med if you fit the bill.”

Overall, Archer believes that his “college career would have been 100 percent different” without PFARS.

“It’s an experience that I know I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else,” said Archer. “I view myself as very lucky for having this and I’m so glad that I made that decision.”

Aside from PFARS, Archer researches hepatitis E and tropism in a University lab under professor Alexander Ploss, serves on the Princeton Undergraduate Research Journal (PURJ) peer review board, and is a Tower Club member. In the past, he has also been a two-time Community Action leader and an Academic Success Today member through the Pace Center.


Jonathan Yu ’18

Currently a senior at the University, Yu has been involved with emergency medical services since his senior year of high school.

“I was really interested in the sciences and volunteering,” said Yu. “Ever since I was little, I was obsessed with listening to sirens. I lived in an apartment building and every time I heard sirens go by, I would run to the window to see what was going on.”

In Yu’s junior year of high school, the local emergency medical services organization in Edgewater, N.J., handed out flyers, prompting him to “decide to try it out and see if it was something that I would enjoy.” Yu took a certification class the following summer and became heavily involved with the organization throughout his senior year.

In addition to being an on-call EMT at PFARS, Yu was also a member of the executive board for two years. He regularly teaches CPR classes and continues to attend as many PFARS training classes as he can, despite being a senior member.

Because of his numerous roles, Yu estimates that he dedicated up to 20 hours a week to PFARS during his sophomore year, the peak of his involvement with the organization.

Although Yu is a B.S.E. computer science concentrator, his time working with emergency medical services has cemented his desire to pursue medicine after graduation.

“Over time, I’ve basically decided that I want to pursue medicine,” said Yu. “It’s pretty much all thanks to my time as an EMT. I’ve really enjoyed every aspect of it.”

Despite the significant time commitment, Yu recommends the EMT experience for prospective pre-medical students.

“It kind of shoves you into the real world where you’re seeing things that really do happen in the [medical] world,” said Yu. “I saw a lot of things around me that not everyone realizes is happening in their community.”

Outside of PFARS, Yu is an ESL tutor for El Centro and a grader for the computer science department. He has formerly been a Tower Club member, Taiwanese American Students Association social chair, Princeton University Mathematics Competition officer, and HackPrinceton officer.