For our latest scholarship award, we asked our applicants to not just tell us what they would do to raise awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and its only treatment – automated external defibrillators (AEDs), but what they have done to raise awareness. Our winner not only talked the talk, but she walks the walk every day. Meet our scholarship winner, Dr. Sarah Alfano:
Dr. Alfano earned her medical degree from American University of Integrative Sciences School of Medicine after graduating from Boston University with a B.S. in Psychology. She has recently begun a Master of Business Administration (MBA) – Master in Public Health (MPH) dual degree at Benedictine University.
She is the Director of Clinical Information and Telemedicine at the Sudden Cardiac-Death Awareness Research Foundation (S.C.A.R.F.) in Illinois. After joining them in 2016, she quickly developed the S.T.A.Y. C.A.L.M. initiative dedicated to community education regarding sudden cardiac arrest and the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Through the S.T.A.Y. C.A.L.M. initiative, technology is developing to map out public access defibrillators and provide real-time guidance for their use as needed. Her strong commitment to community education and technology has allowed her to play a vital role within the S.C.A.R.F. program. She plans to continue her work with the S.T.A.Y. C.A.L.M. initiative while frequently developing new programs to educate the community in regards to sudden cardiac arrest.
S.C.A.R.F. says of Dr. Alfano: “Her own experience transitioning from high school to undergraduate studies to medical school and now returning for her dual MBA-MPH degree provides a valuable resource for our S.C.A.R.F. interns and ambassadors. She plays a critical role in our career guidance and mentorship program during the summer and her availability to our students year-round is greatly appreciated. Her goal is to mentor, motivate, and support future physicians in our community by instilling within them the values of critical thinking, teamwork, and higher education.”
Dr. Alfano is married, and they are expecting their first child in March. In her spare time (what spare time??) she has two rescue dogs which keep her busy
We were introduced to our winner in her essay:
Sudden cardiac arrest remains the number one killer in the United States today. It takes more lives annually than most cancers combined and yet it remains largely misunderstood. Often confused with a heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest is very different and must be treated differently as well. As the director of the Sudden Cardiac-death Awareness Research Foundation (S.C.A.R.F.), I dedicate my life to reducing this deadly condition through the education of the community around me as well as through the donation of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to facilities in need.
Just recently, S.C.A.R.F. donated 4 AEDs to the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA). Our team members went to the school to provide this donation and an hour-long discussion regarding the importance of knowing about cardiac arrest – risk factors, warning signs, how to identify and treat, etc. Two days later, the entire staff at IMSA was fully certified by the American Red Cross in CPR/AED use. With the S.C.A.R.F.-donated AEDs and their new training, the students, staff, and visitors to IMSA should now be safe from sudden cardiac arrest. We cannot prevent it from occurring, but we can ensure the fact that anyone at IMSA should now be treated appropriately and in a timely manner should they experience a cardiac arrest.
Through the community events that I arrange, we aim to focus on AEDs and how they need not be feared. We teach the public that AEDs have voice prompts and can talk them through each step of the way, the most important thing is to just press the power button. We discuss that AEDs are safe to use on anyone and that they will never shock someone that shouldn’t be shocked. They will not cause harm to a person if they attempt to use an AED when it is not indicated. If we can take away the fear of this life-saving machine we can hopefully increase their use in times of need.
Through my education at Benedictine University in the Master of Public Health-Master in Business Administration Program, I hope to learn more ways to impact the community around me when it comes to cardiac arrest. Learning about epidemiology, community health analysis, and nonprofit management will help me to grow S.C.A.R.F. I would love to expand outside of Illinois and continue to make our impact nationwide with more availability of AEDs and more American citizens trained in their use.
I think you can see why we chose her as our winner. We encourage all students with a passion for helping their community and raising awareness for sudden cardiac arrest to apply for our scholarship and tell us how they are working to make an impact. The next deadline is May 30, 2019. We look forward to meeting our next winner!