Find Your Passion: Saving Lives

UA Student Studies Ambulance Response Time

Daniel MarburyMarbury, center, with paramedics Zach Bolding, left, and Chris Roberts. (Photo by Zach Riggins)

By Enelda Butler

One ride could be the difference between life and death. That’s the lesson recent University of Alabama graduate Daniel Marbury learned by studying ambulance response times in Alabama.

By measuring the disparity between ambulance services in rural and urban areas, Marbury found that the balance between life and death could hinge on an ambulance ride in medical emergencies – and, it may not tilt in favor of rural Alabamians.

Using statistical analysis to study the timed responses of ambulance services in three public health areas, Marbury found that rural Alabamians are at a disadvantage for receiving treatment in the event of an emergency.

The project measured ambulance response times by gauging the time from ambulance to the site and from the site to a primary care facility. Marbury compared three different public health areas: one that included Jefferson County, one with Tuscaloosa County, and an area south of Tuscaloosa encompassing eight rural Black Belt counties, a region named for the color of its soil.

Ambulance travel times are reported by emergency medical personnel every time an emergency call is received. Marbury's analysis considered both response and transport times. Response time is defined as the time it takes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene of the emergency after receiving 911 notification, while transport time is measured from the time an ambulance leaves the site with the patient to the time of arrival at a primary care facility such as a hospital.

Marbury, of Alpharetta, Ga., double majored in political science and music, and his research project was through his membership in UA’s Computer-Based Honors Program.

Daniel MarburyMarbury, right, with Chris Roberts. A May 2010 UA graduate, Marbury compared ambulance response and transport times between rural and urban areas. (Zach Riggins)

“I was most interested in picking up the skills used in database management,” he said. “It seemed like very practical experience that would apply in future research efforts. Additionally, this project had such direct and meaningful implications for Alabamians.”

Marbury's study utilized data from the Alabama Department of Public Health EMS database which is part of a greater National EMS Information System. Information from every response to a 911 call is stored in these databases with over 200 variables used to describe the procedures that occur during each emergency.

The May 2010 graduate found the average response time for urban and rural areas was relatively the same, but rural counties had a significantly longer average time for transport to a primary care facility. "We saw a difference between an average of 12 minutes and 42 seconds in Jefferson County and 19 minutes and 8 seconds in the rural public health area 7. The likely explanation for this difference is that there a fewer hospitals servicing rural areas."

Dr. Lea Yerby, assistant professor of community and rural medicine, and Marbury's adviser for his ambulance time research, said, "These differences could have a major impact on survivability and trauma care outcomes for people who live in rural areas."

Yerby used Marbury’s research to not only measure response time, but also how long the unit is on the scene, as well as transport time. She found there were significant differences between all three public health areas for on-scene time, transport time and total time from beginning to end.

Marbury became interested in the project when he received an e-mail from the Computer-Based Honors Program about possible summer employment options. He began working with Jason Parton at the Rural Health Institute on the database management project, and decided to continue this work as his CBHP research project.

He mentored another CBHP student, Gaines Gibson, who has now taken up the project.

“I’m now trying to function as a liaison between the Computer-Based Honors Program and the Rural Health Institute by facilitating projects for other students,” Marbury said.

For his networking between the Computer-Based Honors Program and the College of Community Health Sciences, which contains the Rural Health Institute, he was awarded the Charles Seebeck fellowship.

Daniel MarburyMarbury,  right, talks with Zach Bolding. (Zach Riggins)

”The Computer-Based Honors Program was a big factor for why I came to UA,” he said. He said he was drawn to the program because it allowed him to link his scientific interests with his musical and artistic interests.

He is specifically interested in the study of music in different world cultures. He founded a student organization for recreational drumming on campus, and then went on to study drumming in Ghana last summer.

Marbury said UA has offered him invaluable opportunities. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve only discovered that UA has helped me pursue all of my academic curiosity.”

He is also the president of the UA Environmental Council. The organization is devoted to awareness and action regarding local, national and global environmental issues. This group strives to educate the student body and unite student environmental leaders in order to create a more sustainable community.

He said he expects to remain an active member of the Tuscaloosa Community following graduation. “I’d like to get into arts administration by managing performing and visual arts initiatives” he said, also describing his current volunteer efforts with the Tuscaloosa Arts Council and the Tuscaloosa Magnet School.

Marbury said he wants to see more collaboration between UA students and the Tuscaloosa arts community. He says he would especially like for the UA community to contribute more time and talent to the students in the surrounding Tuscaloosa county schools.

Enelda Butler is a recent graduate of The University of Alabama, receiving a bachelor’s degree in communication studies with minors in public relations and Spanish. She is from Tuscaloosa.

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Enelda Butler is a recent graduate of The University of Alabama, receiving a bachelor’s degree in communication studies with minors in public relations and Spanish. She is from Tuscaloosa.

This story is part of the Find Your Passion feature section of the UA home page. For more stories, please visit Find Your Passion or Crimson Spotlight. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.