SKOWHEGAN — Doctors at Redington-Fairview General Hospital like to joke that they have already put Brandon Giberson on the work schedule for the year 2017, even though Giberson is only in his second year of medical school.
“He’s been here since he was a kid. It’s been the ultimate evolution of someone starting as a high school volunteer and now being able to take concepts he has learned and apply them in the same setting,” said John Comis, director of the emergency department at the hospital, where Giberson is working on a required residency for medical school.
A student at the University of New England in Biddeford, Giberson and his twin brother, Tyler, recently were recognized by the American Heart Association for their volunteer work and research on cardiac arrest alongside Dr. Michael Donnino at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Both brothers say they plan to return to central Maine one day to practice medicine.
“It’s kind of funny looking back at the progression from my days as a volunteer, when my chief duty was changing linens and bringing patients in to X-ray, to working in the back of the ambulance and bringing patients in. It’s so neat to be at the level where I can critically think and interact with patients almost as a member of the clinical staff,” said Brandon Giberson, who said he has always called Redington-Fairview home.
Both brothers, originally from Bingham, worked for the hospital’s ambulance service before moving to Boston. Tyler Giberson, who is in his first year at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, said that unlike his brother, he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a doctor even though he always enjoyed working on the ambulance. After college, he received an offer of an engineering job at the construction company Cianbro but turned it down at the last minute to move to Boston, where he took the necessary classes to apply to medical school and worked full time with his brother at Beth Israel.
The American Heart Association sets guidelines on best practices hospitals should follow when someone’s heart has stopped, Brandon Giberson said. At Beth Israel, the brothers worked with Harvard professor Donnino, who worked on writing the most current guidelines and who Brandon Giberson said has helped launch his research career.
When the heart stops, the body starts showing signs of being cut off from oxygen, he said. Without the heart pumping effectively, cells start to die, causing signs that the brain has suffered. Those signs can include liver, kidney and lung failure or loss of consciousness, Giberson said.
At Beth Israel, the brothers worked with Donnino on ways to slow or stop those effects from happening. Their main method of doing that was therapeutic hypothermia, which is a method of cooling the body to about 33 degrees Celsius, slowing the metabolic rate and allowing the healing process to begin, Giberson said.
The procedure has been around since the 1950s, but it has become widespread only recently, he said. The brothers helped spread the word at conferences throughout New England, which was part of the reason they were chosen for recognition, said Lisa Bemben, director of quality and systems improvement for the American Heart Association.
“What they did really well was embrace a resuscitation program and guidelines for cardiac arrest, whether it is in hospital or out of hospital. We know patients that suffer cardiac arrest have low rates of survival, so it’s important that hospitals adapt guidelines based on scientific evidence to treat patients,” she said.
The Gibersons worked on their research for three years, and although both are now in medical school, Brandon said he plans to continue studying the issue at Redington-Fairview. A former basketball player at Upper Kennebec Valley High School, he said he is an adrenaline junkie who likes the fast pace of the ambulance and emergency room.
His brother, meanwhile, said he wants to keep an open mind about what area of health care he wants to work in. Growing up in a rural area has made him realize that because there is often a lack of primary-care doctors in rural areas, many patients end up going to the emergency room for minor health problems, he said.
One thing he is sure of is his desire to bring high-quality health care to those people.
“I don’t think people should necessarily be given limited access to quality health care because of their geographic location or how much money they have. I really want to work at the local level and even set a model for how if we practice good preventative health care, it can be made more affordable for everybody,” Tyler Giberson said.
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