Binghamton University student
Harpur's Ferry, the University's 24/7 student-run volunteer ambulance service, will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the 2023 spring semester as one of the country's oldest collegiate emergency medical services (EMS).
The agency is a 501(c)3 nonprofit through which students serve students and provide advanced life support, including IV therapy. It is fully staffed by New York State Certified EMT-Basics, EMT-Critical Care Technicians and EMT Paramedics, providing free emergency medical services to the University and the greater Binghamton community through mutual aid agreements. Members respond to live calls and do standbys at large, on-campus events.
Harpur's Ferry was established in 1973 by students Sal Caruna, John-Marc Weston and Adam Bernstein.
"Harpur's Ferry was founded right at the birth of EMS in this country, so a 50-year-old EMS agency is unique," said David Hubeny, a member of Harpur's Ferry Board of Directors and executive director of the Office of Emergency Management at the University. "To go from its first members, who were trained at basic first-aid level, to now having paramedics and three transporting ambulances is absolutely astounding."
Hubeny said that compassion and professionalism have continued to be Harpur's Ferry foundation throughout the years.
"Being one of the oldest EMS organizations has given us a lot of opportunity to get where we are today," said Mekenna Tallman ’21, a Harpur's Ferry member and MPA graduate student. "We’re very established and we have a huge alumni base. All of our current chiefs are students and there are also people you can reach out to from years down the line. Having all those people who can give you advice, you have a whole network of knowledge to help you figure things out."
Beginning with few resources and the use of a Cadillac hearse, the agency has evolved into a fully established organization that offers basic and advanced life support to students, faculty, staff and the local community.
Though its founders recall responding to many drug-related calls in the ’70s, today Harpur's Ferry responds to about 1,500 emergency calls per year and has three ambulance vehicles, including a utility terrain vehicle that allows its members to access all types of surfaces, such as those in the Nature Preserve.
"Even though there have been improvements, I like to say that the one thing that hasn't really changed is the closeness that we have as an agency as a whole," said Brandon Carbone, chief, executive director and MBA graduate student. "I always feel comfortable coming down here and I think a lot of the other members feel the same. It really does feel like we all care about each other and I can have a conversation with people who have become my best friends."
Carbone said that the biggest takeaways from his time with Harpur's Ferry are the team environment and working together with one goal in mind: to produce a positive patient outcome by providing patients with the medical attention they require.
Members experience the rewarding feeling of helping others while also building connections that last a lifetime.
"As a member, you get to see a different side of campus and a different side of the students from the agency and the patients," Tallman said. "You meet a lot of different people whom you may not have met otherwise. I think Harpur's Ferry has made me more culturally aware and a better person overall. I’m very thankful for the experience."
While Harpur's Ferry has been enhanced over the years, the members’ benevolence and their willingness to help those in need has remained the same.
"In the 50 years that Harpur's Ferry has been around, one of the things that consistently stands out is the people," Hubeny said. "Their compassion for what they do and their dedication to doing it requires a lot of training and time. But we’ve got 50 years now to look back on the success of the membership and to see where the members have grown and what they’ve become. They’re all really impressive people in all fields, not just the medical field."