Picture tens of thousands of teenage boys taking part in the following adventure sports: BMX biking, mountain biking, rock climbing, rappelling, zip lining, skate boarding, shooting practice, scuba diving, paddle boarding, kayaking, and rafting.

Now meet the man responsible for keeping them safe in emergencies.

Friday, a helicopter carrying the Jamboree’s EMS director, Dr. Robert Dunne, arrived at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital, to the excitement of those waiting below.

“It’s a big day — Dr. Dunne is coming to town!” shouted Region 1 Medical Director Dr. James Kyle over the helicopter’s roar.

Dunne’s arrival, and the luncheon thrown in his honor, is part of an effort to integrate community health resources — including Raleigh General Hospital and Plateau Medical Center, as well as B-ARH — into the BSA’s emergency medical response planning.

“We’ve been meeting by conference call and planning, but obviously there’s a lot still to figure out. In the process, I’ve come down to get my West Virginia medical license, do some part-time shifts (at ARH), and meet folks,” says Dunne, who arrived sporting a long curly ponytail and BSA-themed bow-tie.  

The Jamboree will be staffed by 500 medical volunteers from across the country. A recent piece of legislation will aid in the effort to credential medical volunteers to practice medicine in the state, similar to measures enacted for Olympic events.

“You sell the sizzle, and the sizzle is all the activities we do,” National Jamboree Director Larry Pritchard told the local medical providers gathered to meet Dunne and roll up their sleeves on planning efforts.

“But the takeaway is not just the memories that are made, but the tools you get in your toolbox to use as an adult. We know this makes a permanent difference in the life of a young person, and that’s why we do it.”

Several decades ago, Dunne was one of those young people.

“A lot of my interest in medicine I owe to scouting,” says Dunne. “When I was a kid I got to work as a medical aide at events and thought that was a lot of fun. I got to see and spend some time on ambulances and worked as a life guard.”

When his two sons got involved in scouting, Dunne became a Scout leader and volunteered to provide health care at events. When the BSA began looking for an EMS director for the 2013 Jamboree, Dunne threw his hat in the ring and was selected for the position.

“I’m kind of helping the Scouts do what I did when I was a kid, which was a lot of fun,” he says.

“To me it’s the opportunity to do some real medicine, to do some real hands-on care.”

Dunne is currently vice chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, Mich.

During the Jamboree, the Summit will be treated like a moderate-sized town. Dunne will coordinate roving EMS response teams who will circulate through the crowd and provide on-site treatment for minor cases. If it’s something more serious, they may transport the patient to a makeshift hospital at the Summit site. Roughly a half dozen helipads will provide landing spots for helicopters to transport anyone needing further attention.

Dunne says in the past he has seen “some of everything,” from adults with pre-existing medical conditions who experience stroke symptoms to active young men with eye and foot injuries. Summer heat adds a certain vertigo to the mix.

But qualified volunteer medical staff and plenty of IV fluid won’t be all it takes, says Pritchard. It also requires relationship-building with local medical providers before the Jamboree.

“The Summit’s medical director, Dr. Steven Eshenaur, and I visited all hospitals in the area and said, ‘We’re going to give you a burden of opportunity every four years. If some of these people get hurt, we’re going to need your help.’”

Eshenaur said, “We needed a plan of what we can offer our Scouts and how we’ll integrate the community health resources ... This state comes together in incredible ways. I’ve been incredibly encouraged by the volunteers who have stepped forward.”

“To have this kind of relationship between HealthNet, the National Guard, hospitals, and EMS systems is a magical thing. I know we’re going to get more out of you than you ever imagined,” Pritchard told those gathered Friday.

Friday was Dunne’s first destination visit to West Virginia, and he says so far he likes what he sees.

“Flying in today was absolutely great. We came out of the clouds and looked down and you could see the hills, the gorges and just the wisps of fog and cloud coming out of there. It was green as far as the eye could see and it was absolutely beautiful.

“I’m someone who loves the outdoors, and you can see this is a great place for this event to be.”

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com


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