Vial of Life program benefits UNTHSC geriatric patients


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Joe Godwin, TCOM ’16

As a paramedic, Joe Godwin always was relieved when he was called to an emergency and spotted a Vial of Life decal on the home’s front window.

It meant that even if the resident was unconscious, he would be able to easily find medical information on them.

Today, geriatric patients at UNT Health Science Center are benefiting from the same Vial for Life program. Godwin, a medical student at UNT Health Science Center’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, led a volunteer effort to bring the free program to campus.

This fall, teams of interprofessional UNTHSC students delivered Vials for Life to almost 300 senior mentors in the SAGE program. Student volunteers have signed up 33 patients at the Geriatric Clinic with plans to add more.

The concept is simple: An over-sized medicine bottle stuffed with information about the person’s medical history, medications and allergies is kept in the refrigerator. A decal on the front door or window tells responders where to look for the vial.

During an emergency, having access to the person’s medical information can help first responders determine the cause of the problem and how to treat it, said Godwin, TCOM ’16. People living alone often are found by friends or relatives who are unable to explain what has happened, he said.

"This simple idea helps make care more effective, efficient, and less wasteful," he said. "I saw my patients in Arlington benefit from it, and I felt that the populations we serve here at the UNTHSC could as well."

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