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Keeping Georgia's Youngest Safe: Coordinator urges proper emergency care for children

December 13, 2013

Originally published Aug. 19, 2013

Leadership in a program that directly benefits children is most effective when that leader has a passion for making a difference. Kelly Buddenhagen, project coordinator for the Georgia Department of Public Health's (DPH) Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMS-C) program, is a shining example of such passionate leadership.

"We should always be thinking of how we can care for children when they need urgent help," said Buddenhagen. "Someone helped me when I was a child, and now I have the opportunity to pay it forward."

Because children have medical needs different from those of adults, giving them proper emergency care can be a challenge for providers. The EMS-C program, funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant, works to ensure that emergency medical services in Georgia are ready to provide timely, state-of-the-art care for even the youngest victims.

EMS-C plays a role in all areas of a child's wellness, including injury and illness prevention, research, treatment and rehabilitation. As part of a national program, Buddenhaggen said she is able to take some of the best practices from other states and make them a part of Georgia's program with relative ease.

The job itself is far from easy. On a typical day, Buddenhagen can be found doing anything from demonstrating proper car seat installation to promoting injury prevention to training extra personnel at schools who share a single school nurse. She recognizes that part of her role is also working with parents to help them adapt to a rapidly changing world.

"Many parents do not understand the many different ways their children can be endangered because so much is different from when they grew up. Add to that the need for increased supervision with technology and you have a recipe for danger," she said.

Buddenhagen credits the ongoing cooperative efforts of agencies and individuals across the state for the strides she and her program have made in improving child safety. Her peers praise her work, saying she makes a big difference in the lives of Georgia's children.

"The EMS community is once again energized in support of EMS for Children initiatives," said Robert Wages, director of DPH's Office of EMS and Trauma. "I extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Kelly, who is a great champion for Georgia's children and a great representative of the Georgia Department of Public Health."