Jason Friesen, ‘12 MSPH, was working on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana border in 2009 when the idea for Trek Medics was born. Originally aiming to donate EMS equipment and supplies and provide training in developing countries, he soon learned that there were deeper problems that needed to be addressed in order to affect real change.
While these countries certainly faced systemic infrastructural challenges — namely a lack of monetary resources and reliable roadways — Friesen soon discovered that “the big issue that every country was dealing with was communication. Even if they had a lot of money and lots of roads, you still need a communication system that alerts first responders when and where there’s an emergency.”
Unlike the U.S. and other more developed nations, many of these countries did not have a widespread landline system in place; however, nearly everyone had a mobile phone. So Friesen developed Beacon, Trek Medics’ mobile phone-based emergency medical dispatching software, to help these communities in the most cost-effective way possible.
Trek Medic takes a holistic approach to emergency services — Friesen explains, “We’ve developed this approach that focuses on the four essential components of any EMS system: training, transportation, communication, and management.” The company currently has two active programs running in the Dominican Republic and Tanzania, providing 24/7 coverage to a total population of approximately 160,000 people and responding to over 20 incidents per month.
Friesen is quick to refute the misperception that Trek Medic is too cumbersome or costly a solution to the emergency care crisis in developing countries: “They already have the mobile infrastructure. It’s just a matter of coordination. And a lot of people get intimidated either by the complexity or what they presume to be the cost. But the costs are much, much lower, and it’s a lot easier to partner with us, than you’d think.”
Friesen and his team are setting their sights high in the next year, looking to expand their existing programs among local partners and move into two new locations: Guyana and Mexico. They aim to provide 911 emergency coverage to a combined 1 million people by June 2017.