Lauren Yarnall is a legacy in the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad.
Her parents met on the squad in the 1980s, and her older brother followed in their footsteps, joining the squad in 2012. While her family introduced her to the idea of joining the squad, joining the squad introduced her to a new type of family.
“You have your probationary siblings, your parents who are your mentors, and I got to have co-parents,” said Yarnall, who graduates this week with a degree in human nutrition, foods, and exercise from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The family aspect is super in your face from the very beginning. We call it that, but it becomes that.”
The all-student-run squad responds to around 1,200 emergency calls on the Blacksburg campus in a typical year and performs the same functions as a municipal rescue squad.
Yarnall joined the squad her freshman year as an attendant who assisted in the back of the ambulance. She soon made her way to driver, licensed medical provider, and advanced EMT, and she is finishing her undergraduate career as the squad’s administrative captain.
“It’s hard to imagine a life where I didn’t know everything about it,” Yarnall said. “I don’t think going in that I could have grasped that I would see so much patient care from such a young age or be in charge of it. It’s something to be really proud of and not take lightly.”
Yarnall will begin an accelerated 12-month nursing program in August to become a registered nurse, though she isn’t the only senior on the squad who plans to pursue a career in medicine.
“I came in knowing I wanted to be a doctor, but I didn’t really know why,” said Hannah O’Malley, the squad’s public outreach lieutenant, who is graduating with a degree in clinical neuroscience from the College of Science. “Running calls really made it clear to me that this was where I wanted to be, and it introduced me to emergency medicine in particular.”
O’Malley, who made her way from attendant to team leader and supervisor, joined the squad during her sophomore year at Virginia Tech. She plans to attend medical school after taking a gap year.
“I can’t really imagine being at Tech without the rescue squad,” she said. “It solidified my passion for medicine, and I knew without a doubt leaving the rescue squad that this [medicine] was going to be something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
O’Malley has a particular interest in emergency medicine.
O’Malley and Yarnall have each volunteered upward of 3,600 hours over the course of their time at Virginia Tech. Their inspiration? The university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).
“All of us have this one motto that we share in common with each other. It’s something to anchor yourself to as a Tech student,” Yarnall said. “Dedicating that many hours and being really happy about it by the end of my time, that’s what Ut Prosim meant to me.”
“Seeing people on Tech rescue who serve and are so willing to give their time for no pay at all was pretty incredible,” O’Malley said. “The community of Virginia Tech and Blacksburg foster that, and it is something that I hope to continue throughout my life after college.”
Written by Savannah Webb ’23, an intern for Virginia Tech University Relations