16-year-old earns EMT certification, looks into medicine – The Durango Herald

High school junior Ethan Bustamante has his eye on Stanford, Duke or Oxford University

Ethan Bustamante, 16, a Durango High School junior, completed an emergency medical course with the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District. “Taking the course was his only idea,” said his father, firefighter Richard Bustamante. “He wanted to do that last summer.” (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Ethan Bustamante has plans. Many teenagers his age do, but 16-year-old Ethan knows exactly what he needs to do to make those plans a reality, and he’s aspired to a career in medicine for years.

Over the summer, Ethan completed a paramedic course at the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District to improve his academic profile and appeal to potential universities and their medical schools.

“Taking the course was his only idea,” said his father, Firefighter Richard Bustamante, who works in Durango but commutes from Aztec. “He wanted to do that last summer.”

“We are running an EMT training program,” said Upper Pine River Fire Chief Bruce Evans. “Usually we have about eight or nine students. We use government grant money to run free paramedic and EMT training. We run these courses all the time. He (Ethan) was the youngest kid we graduated.”

Evans emphasizes the benefits of being from New Mexico and not Colorado for Ethan.

“In New Mexico, an EMT can be certified at age 16,” Evans said. “In Colorado, you must be 18 years old. You can be 16 years old to complete the national certification program in New Mexico. We’re trying to change the regulations here in Colorado so high schoolers like Ethan can start early on the medical side of their education.”

Ethan’s father believes his son’s interest in medicine dates back 16 years to his traumatic birth at the University of New Mexico Hospital.

When Ethan was born he had severe aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the arteries, and a bicuspid aortic valve, a congenital heart disease. Near death, he was airlifted from UNM Hospital to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, where he underwent open-heart surgery to repair the valve at just 3 days old.

“Coarctation severity has remained a UNM case study for cardiologists,” Richard said. “Ethan’s flattened out several times.”

He believes the event is one of the reasons Ethan is so interested in the field of medicine and Stanford University, and Ethan agrees.

“I think that has everything to do with it,” Ethan said. “So I’m definitely looking at cardiology. I’ve wanted to be a surgeon for a long time too, but it’s taking so long. I’m not sure at this point. We will see.”

Ethan is also considering a career as a traveling nurse, a position that caught his eye during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They travel around the country and help different hospitals,” he said. “I would definitely be interested in that.”

“Ethan passed his second-year PSATs with flying colors,” said his father, with a great deal of pride in his voice. “That’s why we get correspondence from Duke and other universities.”

Also this summer father and son know what they are doing.

“We’re going to Boston this summer,” said Richard Bustamante. “It’s this whole correspondence with a conference of young medical leaders. It is for the winners of the Congress of Future Medical Leaders Award of Excellence. We received correspondence from Harvard and Yale about this. Maybe we’ll visit their campus when we have time.”

According to the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists website, the Congress of Future Medical Leaders created the Award of Excellence to help students pursuing a career in medicine. Attendees at the Boston conference can interact with Nobel Laureates, Deans of Medical Schools, Ivy League leaders, top professionals in the medical field, award-winning inventors and scientists.

“I’m looking forward to going there and meeting all the people there,” Ethan said.

Ethan is looking forward to a future in medicine that may include post-secondary education at Stanford, Oxford or Duke University. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Programs and conferences, such as the Congress of Future Medical Leaders, that encourage American youth to pursue careers in medicine have grown steadily over the years.

According to US News, the shortage of health workers has been growing rapidly since the late 2000s, with officials trying to hire students right out of high school.

The Care Forward Colorado program, which uses money from federal COVID stimulus funding, is currently offering free schooling to students interested in becoming certified nursing assistants, paramedics, pharmacy technicians, phlebotomy technicians, and medical assistants or dental assistants, as it already has reported earlier this year by The Colorado Sun.

The need for medical personnel, especially EMTs and EMTs, is also why Bruce Evans wants to start teaching EMT courses to the high school students of Durango and Bayfield, creating a path to those careers after they graduate.

“There is such a need for medical staff right now,” Evans said. “By the summer we could hire students.”

Ethan agrees that high school students would benefit from EMT courses.

“It would expose kids to something else,” he said. “There really isn’t anything offered in the medical field in our school unless the student has an outside interest like me. It could be an elective for seniors.”

Now that Ethan has his EMT certification, he will progress through the New Mexico EMT program and then take a national registration exam to become an official EMT. He must also complete his studies at Durango High School if he is to be accepted at Stanford or Duke University. He is currently taking all of the advanced placement courses such as AP Physics, Biology and Calculus. He is eligible for early graduation but is still evaluating all of his options.

“I’m thinking of all the doctors who are preparing us for the disabilities that he (Ethan) would have at birth due to the lack of oxygen in his brain,” said Richard Bustamante. “They said he would be slower and have learning disabilities and it’s clearly the opposite of that. He proved them all wrong.”

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