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UPMC offers emergency medical training program in underserved communities

Inspired by the Freedom House ambulance project, it is designed to offer employment where the pandemic created or furthered economic disparities.

Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center along with the UPMC Health Plan has begun recruiting for its Freedom House 2.0 program that will train and employ two cohorts of emergency responders from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Beginning in the new year, the program will consist of two 10-week sessions that focus on teaching traditional EMS services along with nonemergency psychosocial training. Trainees will complete both an Emergency Medical Technician course and a community health worker course. Each trainee will receive one-on-one mentorship, shadowing opportunities across the healthcare field, and mental health and resiliency training. 

Along with education, the program will cover all student expenses, including a tablet, clinical uniform and exam fees. Each trainee will also be given a stipend of $1,500.

Following the completion of the training, each graduate is guaranteed an interview with UPMC, along with job placement support.

The program is funded by a $235,000 grant from Parnter4Work, the public workforce investment board for Allegheny County, and builds upon the medical center's Pathways to Work program that was launched this summer.


The program is specifically designed to offer employment opportunities in underserved communities, where the pandemic has created or furthered economic disparities, UPMC said in its announcement.

Further, the program teaches both medical and non-medical response curriculum, which can be useful for situations that don't require clinical care.

"This community-based training program recognizes how emergency response has evolved," said Dan Swayze, the UPMC Health Plan vice president of Community Services and Director of Operations.  "UPMC and UPMC Health Plan understand that today's paramedics need to take time to find out what an individual actually needs and get him or her connected to the right system of care, rather than just assuming the emergency department has the best solution."


The program is inspired by Pittsburgh's Freedom House ambulance project, which ran from 1968 to 1975, and which helped establish the national training model for emergency medical service programs.

The original project was mostly staffed with Black men and women and recruited unemployed individuals for training as paramedics to deliver better emergency medical care to the community.

Community-based interventions are a popular way for health systems to improve the health and wellbeing of the locals they serve.

RWJBarnabas Health recently launched a new initiative aimed at addressing systemic racism while promoting an antiracist culture within its organization and the communities it serves. The Ending Racism, Together program intends to create racial, ethnic and cultural equity by uplifting disenfranchised communities that face poor health, social, economic and educational outcomes at the hands of racism.

On the other side of the country, Intermountain Healthcare, United Way of Salt Lake and other state health system partners recently came together to address the social determinants of health. Together, the organizations will collaborate to improve the health and wellbeing of communities, improve coordination across health systems, and reduce healthcare costs by addressing the upstream economic, education and social factors that impact people's health


"Freedom House 2.0 will help meet several critical health care needs in some of our underserved communities by providing both fulfilling and sustainable employment opportunities and practical assistance in connecting citizens to the right health care resources," said Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto.

Twitter: @HackettMallory
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