De’anthony “DJ” Taylor, a third-year student in the emergency services program at Radford University Carilion (RUC), needed a leap from a big pond to a small pond to find his comfort zone and path to a career.
The Arlington, Va./Washington, D.C., native first came to Southwest Virginia as a communications program major on the main campus in Radford. While there, he volunteered for the on-campus EMS service and discovered his passion for taking care of patients.
“That’s where I found my love for EMS as a whole,” Taylor said. “It didn’t take long before I said to myself, ‘This is what I really want to do with my life.’”
Taylor began exploring his options and found that RUC offered a four-year bachelor’s degree in emergency services. In his second year as a Highlander, he made the move from Radford to Roanoke and dived headlong into learning to become a first-responder.
Taylor joined the critical care track of the program, which prepares students for advanced patient care as part of ground and air transport teams. The track also prepares students for entry-level management and leadership positions in non-fire service-based EMS agencies, and graduates can sit for the national paramedic certification exam and specialty critical care certifications.
Taylor said that after completing his first year at RUC, he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I’ve had a wonderful time at RUC,” he said. “The professors and people are, by far, the best part of the RUC experience, and the classes are amazing.”
Taylor said that the program provides students with advantages over other programs by offering learning opportunities taught by experienced EMS professionals. Additionally, emergency services students tend to learn in smaller classes, giving them the opportunity to bond with their classmates and the faculty.
“With small class sizes, you’ll have the chance to learn a lot and get opportunities you just can’t get in other places,” Taylor said. “You’ll get lots of one-on-one time with the professors, and they’re not the kind of instructors that you see only once a week. You’ll see them often, and when you ask for their help, they’re going to be there for whatever you need.”
Taylor says his fellow students are also a great support system, providing feedback and assistance whenever they are called upon.
“You’re going to have friends and classmates here that will be there for you whenever you need them,” he said. “I honestly think the support system here is the greatest thing about being a Highlander at RUC.”
That support is especially important for Taylor, a first-generation college student.
“Being the first in my family to go to college was intimidating,” Taylor says. “I can say that there were times that I didn’t know what to do or where to go because there just isn’t that advice from family and friends you can fall back on.”
However, Taylor says that faculty, advisors, and staff at RUC have been invaluable resources of assistance when he needed it. He says he’s consistently found help from staff in RUC’s financial aid, bursar, student affairs, and admissions offices.
“It’s really easy to get the information you need when you need it, and everyone is so helpful,” he said.
In addition to his classes, Taylor stays busy as a student worker in the Office of Admissions, conducting tours, sending notification and acceptance letters, and compiling information packets for prospective students.
He also has taught “Stop the Bleed” classes at local high schools through his program and supplements his courses with work as an Inter Facility Transport team member taking patients between healthcare facilities. That service can sometimes extend to responding to 911 calls as well.
Due to his clinicals and a few other requirements for his program, Taylor expects to graduate in 2025. At that time, he wants to follow several family members into the military by joining the army.
“I’d like to be in the service for five to six years, and then I’d like to come back to this area and join an EMS crew,” Taylor said. “It’s something I can see myself doing for the rest of my life, and RUC has been a key part of getting me there.”