When the late Megan Brynjolfsson ’19 transferred to Chapman University, it would have been completely understandable if she had chosen to focus solely on finishing her degree.
Chronic health challenges and debilitating migraines had made it difficult for her to continue at the rural Midwest college she enrolled in after graduating from high school in San Juan Capistrano, forcing her to return home to Orange County to be near family and specialized health care. She was eager to finish her degree and plan a career in some facet of the health sciences.
Helping Campus Safety
Nevertheless, when it came to helping other people, she was tireless. Soon after entering Chapman, she launched the student-led Emergency Medical Education Club, served as its founding president, forged a partnership with Chapman’s Department of Fire and Life Safety and jumped at the opportunity to organize pie and coffee fundraisers to get the club off and running.
It worked. No mere bandage brigade, this team is now trained, equipped and ready to assist with the various urgent but non-emergency situations that can arise at campus events and gatherings. Much of their work is preventative and ranges from helping campus visitors at evening events navigate stairs and steps to staffing a water station during warm-weather occasions, such as Commencement Weekend. Still, all members are well trained and several are also certified lifeguards or, as Brynjolfsson was, emergency medical technicians whose skills could potentially be invaluable.
So when Brynjolfsson died suddenly last summer from a combination of health complications, hearts were broken. But the club she started and her gift for making a difference in the world lives on. A recent memorial donation from her family provided the team with uniforms and equipment.
In recognition, the office of Public Safety named the team’s training room for Brynjolfsson and added resources to create paid student first aid worker positions, which club members and others may apply for.
“Obviously, we think about Megan every day. We’re reminded of all of the great things she did. Nice things like this club,” says her father, John Brynjolfsson. “We knew this was important to her and we know that this was one of her major ambitions and goals.”
A Benefit for Grad School
In addition, his daughter hoped that club members’ time on first aid duty would also earn them patient-contact hours, a requirement for entry to most health science graduate programs. Thanks to a partnership with Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, that dream is now a reality, too.
Victor Arteaga, Chapman’s fire safety officer and the group’s advisor and supervisor, says the Brynjolfssons’ support is transformative.
“She inspired me to continue working toward her dream, along with her parents, who have graciously helped. They were integral. With their support, it’s a strong foundation for the program to grow,” Arteaga said.
For fellow classmates who worked with Megan these past few years, sweet memories are part of that legacy, too.
“She worked in a skilled nursing facility, so she was amazing with elderly patients,” said Carson Shevitz ’20 a business major who plans to return home to Santa Barbara after graduation where he’ll work with a marine rescue and salvage company.
‘In Her Honor’
Working Commencement Weekend with her, Shevitz recalls that she had a knack for spotting older guests who needed an extra bottle of water or a bit of shade during the warm weather. “It was kind of special to see her kneel down and talk to an older person. That is just one thing I’ll remember about Megan.”
Health sciences major Erika Ebe ’20 recalls that Brynjolfsson was a whiz at taking blood pressure quickly and shared her expertise with classmates in a physiology lab they had together.
“She was an amazing example of what a great first responder should be,” Elbe says.
Now Ebe and fellow club officers are busy planning this semester’s activities and recruiting new members. But Brynjolfsson is always in their thoughts.
“It’s really cool to see her vision for an on-campus first aid team start to become a reality,” she says. “We can’t wait to see it grow in her honor and see how it impacts the Chapman campus for years to come.”