When Katie Ertel ’13 first arrived on campus at Franklin & Marshall College, she was intrigued by the College’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program. A Basic Life Support (BLS) unit licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, F&M EMS provides emergency response to the members of the College and the surrounding Lancaster community.
“I was initially drawn to emergency medicine that way,” Ertel said. “I loved working as an EMT in college. I thought it was so fun.”
After graduation, Ertel followed this passion and worked as a technician in the Lancaster General Hospital Emergency Department for a year before deciding to go to graduate school in Oklahoma to become a physician assistant (PA). Her letter of recommendation for PA school was written by a fellow F&M alumna, Dr. Ericka Powell ’94, FACEP.
Ertel met Powell while she was an EMT with F&M. Powell, who is a medical director at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, has served as the F&M EMS medical director for more than 10 years.
“I always had a relationship with the F&M unit, so when they needed a medical director, it was a natural segue for me,” Powell said.
While Ertel was in PA school, she maintained a connection with Powell via email and Facebook. When she graduated and returned to Pennsylvania, Ertel contacted Powell to let her know she was back and hoping to work in Lancaster.
“Most of the connections you’ll make for potential jobs are through your rotation, and of course I wasn’t staying [in Oklahoma],” Ertel said. “I felt very comfortable talking with [Powell] and reaching out to her. I felt she was very open-minded and would help me if she could.”
Ertel’s hunch was right—Powell hired her as an Emergency Department PA at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital, a position she started in April.
“Katie probably would not have gotten a job in emergency medicine had she not had this relationship,” Powell said. “[Our relationship] gave her an edge up in a job market that’s pretty tight. I don’t typically hire new grads in a busy emergency department like mine. But because I knew her, I knew she went to F&M and I had worked with her previously, I was willing to take a chance.”
When it comes to creating and nurturing alumni relationships like theirs, Powell and Ertel have words of wisdom to share with F&M students and alumni. Ertel in particular recommended that students get involved on campus, especially in extracurricular areas of interest.
“That’s how you start these relationships,” she said. “Become involved on campus in your interests, meet different people, remember your connection and nurture those relationships over the years in whatever way you can.”
Powell noted this method is exactly how Ertel succeeded in securing a job in emergency medicine.
“Nurturing those relationships yielded big for [Ertel] in the end,” she said. “It’s important to stay connected, not only with your classmates, but other alumni you meet along the way. You never know.”
For alumni, Powell noted it’s important to donate to and support your alma mater, whether it’s with time or money.
“It’s critical to the success and the future of higher learning that alumni be engaged participants in the next generation of people coming through,” she said.
Ertel agreed, saying she plans to be an active participant in the F&M community, just like Powell.
“Because Dr. Powell took a chance on me, it makes me want to become more involved in whatever ways I can,” she said. “I want to give back to someone else what Dr. Powell has given me.”
If you want to connect with F&M alumni but don’t have contact information, or even if you’d like to find a connection and discover alumni who work in the field of your interest, Powell recommended reaching out to the Alumni Relations office.
“I’m thrilled to see this relationship come full circle,” she said. “I get an amazing new employee and she gets to work in the emergency department.”