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KUSM-W and Project ADAM provide tools, system to prevent sudden cardiac deaths at schools

July 25, 2019

Kansas Project ADAM banner presented to Andover school district

From left to right: Aaron Ryan, RN, executive director of the Medical Practice Association at KU School of Medicine-Wichita, presents the Kansas Project ADAM Heart Safe School banner to Brett White, superintendent of Andover Public Schools; Josh Wells, Andover school board president; and Kellie Bamford, RN, Andover Public Schools' lead nurse, during an Andover Public Schools board meeting.

By Brian Whepley

Kellie Bamford knows well that AEDs - automated external defibrillators - save lives when a student or someone else suffers sudden cardiac arrest at school.

"We had a student that collapsed in the gym, in total cardiac arrest. It was a horrible event. We saved his life with a defibrillator. He had a clean bill of health at the time," said Bamford, Andover Public Schools' lead nurse who oversees district health personnel and their training.

The same is true of a parent playing a pickup basketball game one weekend. AEDs deliver a lifesaving jolt that shocks the heart back into action, and the modern devices are simple to use - if people know where they are and how vital it is to respond quickly. Another player responded.

"Because we had a defibrillator, they did not die," Bamford said.

So taking part in Kansas Project ADAM was a simple decision for Bamford and her district, with 10 of its schools recently becoming the first in the state to earn the program's Heart Safe Schools designation. Banners noting the achievement were presented at the district's monthly board meeting in July. Aaron Ryan speaks during an Andover school board meeting about Kansas Project ADAM

Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam's Memory) began in 1999 in Wisconsin after 17-year-old Adam Lemel collapsed and died while playing basketball. Adam suffered from ventricular fibrillation, where the heart cannot pump blood throughout the body, and could have been saved by an AED. His parents created the program to provide education, advocacy and preparedness. Kansas just recently became a state affiliate of the nonprofit, which is credited with saving over 140 lives.

The state affiliate is a joint effort of KU School of Medicine-Wichita Medical Practice Association and KU Wichita Pediatrics. Aaron Ryan, BSN, RN, MBA, FACMPE, executive director of the Medical Practice Association, is program coordinator. Lalitha Gopineti, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist, and Priyank Yagnik, M.D., a pediatric intensivist, are medical directors. Both are volunteer clinical faculty for the medical school as well.

Yagnik became interested in the program after hearing about it from its two founding medical directors, Arpan Doshi, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist now practicing in Houston, and Jeet Mehta, M.D., a former KU pediatrics resident now practicing in Kansas City. Ryan came aboard after realizing that, with several school-based outreach programs going on at the medical school, he could be a natural contact point.

Schools earning the Heart Safe designation complete a checklist encompassing training, awareness and emergency response. The list includes making sure AEDs are within two-to-three minutes' reach anywhere on campus, signage locating the devices, an on-site CPR-AED coordinator, a dedicated cardiac response team, and ensuring faculty and staff have been trained in signs of sudden cardiac arrest.

"If your brain is not getting oxygen, every second counts. This is why the whole curriculum started," Yagnik said. "It's not just having an AED, but the system to use it."

"All the steps before 911 arrives, that is what we are trying to stress," Yagnik said.

Yagnik went to a national Project ADAM conference in Michigan in May with participants from over a dozen states. There, they heard about what works and what doesn't when it comes to establishing the programs. In addition to providing medical counsel as needed, Yagnik sees his role as helping establish medical connections to the program and helping raise money for the project. "If they need equipment or training, then we try to provide them."

Kansas Project ADAM's goal is to expand beyond the Wichita area and across the state. Initial funding - banners have been the biggest expenses so far - has been provided by KU Wichita Pediatrics, but the affiliate's staff is also pursuing grants and other donations to support future efforts.

Ryan said he expects each school district's needs will vary. Although Kansas schools must have AEDs on site, there are few requirements and resources beyond that. Some schools lack nurses or other medical personnel, for example.

Bamford said that her district is fortunate to have the personnel, resources and training in place to earn the Project ADAM Heart Safe designation. The partnership enhances awareness even further. In Andover, each member of the health team is a certified CPR instructor, and lunchroom aides are trained to handle choking cases. The district checks its AEDs more often than required, and Bamford plans to emphasize training scenarios involving cardiac arrest. What Project ADAM brings to all those efforts is a system of crosschecks and honed processes, ensuring attention doesn't waver.

"The core is making sure we know what we need to do," Bamford said.

For Ryan, the statistics on preventable deaths and stories about the regularity with which AEDs are used drove home the project's value.

"It's a good thing to do for the kids, and it's a good way for the doctors to reach out," he said.

The Andover district appreciates the outreach.

"Working with KU School of Medicine-Wichita and Project ADAM confirmed that we were on the right track with many of our policies and procedures when it comes to cardiac safety," said Brett White, superintendent of Andover Public Schools. "Earning this distinction is peace of mind that we are prepared for a cardiac event in our schools, whether it's with a student, a staff member or someone visiting campus for an event. We really appreciate the expertise KU and Project ADAM provided to us. It is a great partnership."

Learn more

To find out more about Kansas Project ADAM, go to the Kansas Project ADAM webpage or contact program coordinator Aaron Ryan at 316-293-3478 or

Above: Aaron Ryan, RN, executive director of the Medical Practice Association at KU School of Medicine-Wichita, speaks about Kansas Project ADAM during and Andover school board meeting.

KU School of Medicine-Wichita
Last modified: Jul 25, 2019
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Wichita, KS, 67214

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