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Sami Whitwell, a third-year medical student, demonstrates the application of a makeshift tourniquet with assistance from Department of Surgery Business Administrator Shane Atkison.

Stop the Bleed campaign turns bystanders into first responders

Dr. Shuntaye Batson

Dr. Felicitas Koller


Two surgeons at the University of Mississippi Medical Center who are accustomed to seeing human blood and trauma are working to promote empowering people without formal medical training to save lives by stopping profuse bleeding. Dr. Felicitas Koller, assistant professor of transplant surgery, and Dr. Shuntaye Batson, associate professor of surgery, are faculty advisers who are helping the UMMC student chapter of the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) conduct outreach events for the national Stop the Bleed campaign sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Koller said the Stop the Bleed is a grassroot campaign to encourage bystanders to take action to stop bleeding before emergency medical technicians are able to arrive on the scene. Koller said the campaign addresses not only the methods used to stop bleeding, but things that will allow people to be calm and focus on their ability to respond.

According to Homeland Security, no matter how rapid the arrival of professional emergency responders, bystanders will always be first on the scene. A person who is bleeding can die from blood loss within five minutes. Therefore, it is important to quickly stop the blood loss. Those nearest to someone with life threatening injuries are best positioned to provide the first care.

Koller said she also feels the program can set students on the path of taking an active role in community outreach and advocacy during their careers.

Batson said the Stop the Bleed campaign got started after the Sandy Hook School massacre in 2012 where a gunman killed 20 students and six adults.

“Given the number of those mass shooting events, it is important for people to know how to maintain composure and hopefully save someone’s life if they find themselves in that sort of unfortunate situation,” Batson said. “I think it can give you at least some strategies to have in the back of your mind before it happens. It is sort of like simulating going through it before it happens. These shootings are happening everywhere.”

There have been 11 mass shooting events at schools since the Columbine High School massacre that killed 13 people 20 years ago. There have also been mass shootings at concerts, nightclubs and workplaces.

If you find yourself in a situation where someone has been injured in a shooting or traffic accident, Batson said your first priority is your own safety. First call 911. Next, know some potential strategies to help save a life.

“And I think most people want to help save a life,” Batson said. “There is growing evidence that this kind of training can save lives. The Journal of the College of American Surgeons retrospective review found statistically significant benefits. The study looked at 101 patients in which a tourniquet was placed and there was a significant difference in mortality. One conclusion was that fatalities were reduced. In a practical sense, just saving one person’s life is enough.”

Sami Whitwell, AWS president, UMMC, said their group has most recently done a training for about 50 people at the COFO Civil Rights Education Center and to a group of Jackson citizens in various activist groups committed to stopping violence in the community.

“We worked closely with Rukia Lumumba to organize this event and are planning more trainings with this group,” Whitwell said. “We have also done presentations at the Jackson Boys and Girls Club with their full-time staff. Our AWS group is also committed to mentorship of younger members and prospective medical students, so we have also conducted trainings and pre-med question and answer panels to about 25 students at Millsaps College and 35 students Tougaloo College. We have also done some outreach work outside of the Jackson community recently.”

Whitwell said their survey feedback after trainings is consistently positive, leading them to believe that people enjoy this training and find the scenario practice to be quite helpful.

They focus the first half of the training on what trauma means to the audience, dealing with different types of emotions they may encounter in a traumatic event, and how to be a compassionate and efficient bystander. Validating other’s emotions is a key step, in that everyone responds differently to trauma.

“We emphasize that personal safety is the number one priority when deciding if one should intervene,” she said. “The last thing we want is two victims, instead of just one. We discuss the personal barriers to intervention, such as disease transmission and legal issues, as well as danger barriers, such as an active shooter, fire, oncoming traffic, etc. We focus on ensuring personal and scene safety before intervention.”

Once a bystander has determined safety and decided to intervene, calling 911 and assessing the victim’s status is the next step, along with performing whatever is necessary to prolong their life until an ambulance can arrive.

They use the mneumonic “DR. ABC” to help the audience remember the order of the steps, which stands for “Danger/Dial, Response, Airway, Bleeding, Carry.” They discuss different types of injuries and bleeding and what to do with each type, and teach pressure techniques and different tourniquet applications.

“After the didactic portion of the training, we let everyone practice these skills, and then we act out different scenarios to further solidify how to manage a scene after trauma,” Whitwell said.

For more information about Stop the Bleed training, send an email to swhitwell@umc.edu or achristian@umc.edu. More information about the campaign can be found at https://www.dhs.gov/stopthebleed or https://www.bleedingcontrol.org/.


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About Becky Gillette