Public Health Student Destined for Medicine

Public Health Student Destined for Medicine

As the College prepares to send the Class of 2019 across the Cistern Yard May 10-11, The College Today will highlight how some of our graduating seniors spent their time at CofC, and what the future holds.


Public health major and Honors College student Jackson Hartley has had a passion for helping others since an early age.

Hartley’s younger brother Nathaniel was hospitalized for five years of their childhood for immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a condition when the immune system mistakenly attacks platelets.

“He wasn’t expected to come through,” says Hartley, “but he had a very intense team of pediatricians and they tried everything from chemo to blood transfusions, and he made a full recovery. Now he’s a collegiate swimmer at Duke.”

Hartley was 13 when his brother fell ill. As soon as he turned 15, he volunteered to be a first responder, and when he turned 18, he trained to be an EMT (emergency medical technician).

And it was his passion for emergency medical care that drew Hartley to the College of Charleston. He was attracted to CofC’s EMS transport unit, an all-volunteer program that operates from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. during the regular academic year. Honors College Dean Trisha Folds-Bennett introduced Hartley to the program at an event for potential students in Charlotte, North Carolina. He saw this as an opportunity to continue his practice from high school and use it as a transition to medical school.

CofC EMS was established in 1995 when a group of students decided to create a first responder unit to attend to medical emergencies on campus. The organization is made up of CofC students who volunteer their time to go out on calls regarding medical emergencies on campus and assist other agencies when requested. First responder programs are rare on college campuses, so it was a big part of Hartley’s attraction to the school.

Hartley joined the EMS team as a first year student, before going on to lead it the following year. Unbeknownst to him, the group was made up of seniors, so when they all graduated, they handed him the keys to the program. Hartley took calls every night — he was the only person running the service and the university wanted to shut it down due to a lack of participation. But he was able to recruit others with help from health professions advisor Karen Eippert ’92. Hartley also credits Justin Wolfe, EMS compliance and training coordinator, resident fire marshals Capt. Dave McDonough and Capt. Tim Agee and the Department of Public Safety for their role in the development and support of the organization.

“Working in EMS overall has assured my passion for medicine and taught me the value of interpersonal relationships,” says Hartley. “We see people in their worst moments, and most of the time what people really need is someone to talk to. CofC EMS, however, has taught me how to be a leader. There is a balance between leading through example and developing another’s self-efficacy that creates a competent team.”

The EMS program is in good hands as Hartley prepares to cross the Cistern later this week during Commencement. And the campus community is a little safer because of Hartley, too. His research analyzing trends in cardiac arrest mortality within South Carolina led him to develop a free CPR initiative which CofC EMS provides to the campus community.

Hartley will continue to work with Charleston County EMS and a handful of free clinics for a year while he applies to medical school. His hope is to stay in Charleston and attend the Medical University of South Carolina with an Air Force scholarship. After that, he says he wants to go into primary care because of his background in public health.

“Working in EMS spurred my passion for public health because I see what is going on in the community firsthand,” he says. “While working in the field, you have the benefit of seeing the conditions in which the disease was brought about. Accordingly, you begin to see trends in disease causation and incidence. Public health is all about prevention and identification of  disease variables.”


Other notable Class of 2019 graduates from the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance include: Rodrick Bellamy, Kaelyn Kelly, Katie Leen, Allie Hoover and  Megan Minchak.