2020 Grad Profile: From Emergency Med Student to Firefighter

May 14, 2020

Erik Ceron will be the first to graduate with the bachelor’s degree in emergency medical services.


The College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Emergency Medicine this week will award its first graduate in the bachelor’s degree program in emergency medical services.

Erik Ceron is the first to graduate from the emergency medical services program in the College of Medicine –Tucson.

Erik Ceron is the first to graduate from the emergency medical services program in the College of Medicine –Tucson.

Erik Ceron earned the distinction quickly by transferring the previous coursework he was completing toward a neuroscience degree. He has marked another milestone somewhat distinctive in graduating seniors: he already is working full-time in his intended profession as an emergency medical technician in the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District southeast of Tucson.

During Ceron’s time as an undergraduate neuroscience major, he discovered his passion for EMS when he joined the University of Arizona Emergency Medical Services and became an emergency medical technician. While continuing his courses at UArizona, he attended Pima Community College to become a firefighter and a nationally certified paramedic.

When the UArizona EMS bachelor’s degree program was approved last year, Ceron transitioned his education plan and enrolled in the major. His previous coursework in physiology, chemistry and neuroscience enabled him to finish the requirements to graduate after just two semesters.

“I really loved the program, the smaller classes and the lectures given by emergency physicians. I felt a more personal connection,” Ceron said.

Ceron’s favorite class was "Advanced Prehospital Pediatric Care."

Erik Ceron is working full time as a firefighter/paramedic at the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District.

Erik Ceron is working full time as a firefighter/paramedic at the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District.

“I really appreciated having a full semester of the pediatric course as opposed to completing all of my pediatric training in the limited timeframe allotted during a packed paramedic curriculum,” he said. “It allowed me to spend extra time truly focusing on these complex cases to improve my comfort level.”

For the last several years, Ceron has been volunteering with the charitable foundation Integrated Community Solutions to Active Violent Events (ICSAVE), teaching the community, educators and other professionals bleeding control, active violence response and CPR. In 2017, he began volunteering at the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District as an EMT and Wildland Firefighter while he was attending classes, and he eventually transitioned to a full-time firefighter/paramedic position with the department.

Ceron says his degree will help him better serve the Sonoita-Elgin community in his current position and enhance his leadership skills in his volunteer work with ICSAVE.

"My undergraduate studies in EMS prepared me for a great deal of medical scenarios," Ceron said.

“I have plans to one day go to medical school.”Erik Ceron, Emergency Medical Services graduate

Reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic that emerged at the same time he embarked on his career as a recent graduate, Ceron said the novel coronavirus introduced more caution into his day-to-day work life.

"Knowing there is a risk of asymptomatic carriers transmitting the virus, we are doing our part to protect not only ourselves but the community as a whole," Ceron said. "We have begun disinfecting the station three times a day, and are wearing more PPE (personal protective equipment) on every call."

In the future, Ceron says, “I have plans to one day go to medical school.”

The undergraduate degree program, which began last fall, is the first offered by a UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson clinical department and the second undergraduate degree program in the medical school. Enrollment is open to current state- or nationally-certified paramedics, or people who have completed an associate’s degree in paramedic care at a regionally accredited community college or university.

The EMS major or minor is one of only a few programs in the nation administered through a clinical department, and offers students opportunities to be mentored by and learn from UArizona emergency medicine faculty members, fellows and residents who are EMS clinicians and researchers at the cutting edge of EMS care.