St. George resident raising money to trail-blaze Haiti’s first paramedic student to Dixie State

Claudel Gedeon will be Haiti's first working and certified paramedic. Date not specified | Photo courtesy of Armadeus Davidson, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A St. George resident is raising money to bring Haiti’s first paramedic student to study at Dixie State University this coming fall. 

Claudel Gedeon helps load a patient into a medical helicopter in Haiti, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Haiti Air Ambulance, St. George News

More than 10 years after St. George resident Armadeus Davidson met Claudel Gedeon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the devastating 2010 earthquake, Davidson is sponsoring Gedeon as an international student at Dixie State’s Emergency Medical Services program. Gedeon will be the first Hatian to be certified as a paramedic after he completes the program, Davidson told St. George News. 

“This is a rare opportunity to help a genuinely good person who’s selfless and actually has a chance to make a difference in a country that’s been struggling since the beginning of its history,” Davidson said. “And he doesn’t ask for recognition, no one knows that he’s doing it. And it’s rare, I think, for people like that to be around and we should support them.” 

Since translating for the American medical volunteers as a high school student in 2010, Gedeon has become a trailblazer in his country’s medical field. After meeting National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians standards, Gedeon became an EMT for the Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince.

Since 2012, he has taught classes and established EMPACT Haiti, a non-profit dedicated to medical service education and development in Haiti. Gedeon currently serves as a medical crew member with the non-profit Haiti Air Ambulance, treating injured and sick people across Haiti on the country’s sole rotor-wing ambulance, according to an email from Davidson. 

Paramedics do not exist in Haiti, Davidson said, so there is no path for Gedeon to obtain the certification in his home country. So when the opportunity came for him to study in St. George – where he has a support system through friends like Davidson – it was a no-brainer. Gedeon told St. George News over Whatsapp that getting a degree and helping his fellow Haitians has been his dream since 2011.

“Imagine becoming the pioneer paramedic in your country where that was (has) not even (ever) existed before,” he said. “With everyone’s support, becoming an international paramedic will be possible and my contribution to my home country, Haiti, will help in so many positive aspects.” 

Gedeon added that he plans to return to Haiti after completing the program and teach his fellow Haitians EMT, paramedic and first responder courses. 

Malinda Whipple, director of the Emergency Medical Services program, told St. George News that there are many things graduates can do with their paramedic degree. Many graduates go on to medical school, nursing school or to fire departments across the country. Although she has not met Gedeon yet, she said she has never heard of a story like his in the paramedic program and she thinks he will learn a lot at Dixie State. 

“I was really excited to hear that we have a student interested in coming from Haiti,” Whipple said. “The fact that he could come and be exposed to both rural and urban medicine would be a great experience and something that would benefit him as he returns to care for his community.”

Whipple said that Dixie State’s paramedic program is unique because students can intern at rural fire departments locally and urban departments in the Las Vegas area. Most programs in the U.S. don’t offer such versatile opportunities, she said. The program also strives to be as inclusive as possible. Compared to the national average of 27% of EMTs being female, at least 50% of the students in Dixie State’s program are female, Whipple said. 

“We’re trying to break down barriers by making our programs accessible to everyone so this is just one more step in that direction,” she said.

The International Student Services center supports students from all over the country and is located on the first floor of the Student Activity Center at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, April 21, 2021 | Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News

Gedeon will be coming to Dixie State through the International Student Services program. The application process can be complicated and lengthy, especially for a program like EMS that requires a lot of prerequisites, Shadman Bashir, director of Internation Student Services, told St. George News. The program is currently trying to help Gedeon prove that he can meet the prerequisite requirements before he can be officially accepted into the university.

“Our goal is always to support the students,” Bashir said. “We are all trying, we are all hoping to have him … we go to every length possible by law to bring in a student and then support them.”

The ISS has seen tremendous growth in the past year, expanding by 100% this semester and 250% for Summer 2021, Bashir said. In addition, 36% of the program’s 150 students made it on the Dean’s List this semester and for the first time ever, an ISS student was a valedictorian this spring. The program is looking forward to growing and welcoming more students like Gedeon, Bashir said. 

Gedeon’s tuition will cost about $16,000, Davidson said. Davidson is hoping to be able to cover that in addition to some pocket money for Gedeon through his own funds and donations from the community.

Anyone interested in donating to Gedeon’s education can do so on his GoFundMe page.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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