Lauren Frye, who received a bachelor's degree in biology with an emphasis in pre-medicine from Eastern New Mexico University in 2017, is a firefighter and EMT for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia.
The Greyhound Grad shares how her time at ENMU prepared her for a career where she makes a positive difference in her community.
Why did you choose to attend ENMU?
From the first bit of communication I had with Head Volleyball Coach Sia Poyer, I felt very comfortable at ENMU. I knew it wasn't the school I envisioned myself attending, but somehow, amid the other larger campuses I visited, I felt most at home when I was at Eastern.
How did you choose your field of study?
Human Bio was my favorite class in high school. I was pretty sure then that I didn't want to be a doctor and didn't want to go to medical school, but wasn't sure about what exactly I would pursue with the interest I had. I attended various "med camps" and had my fair share of conversations with doctors and family friends about different paths to take; I just couldn't decide which path was for me. I decided to go with a pre-med emphasis because I thought if I could dig deeper into what I was passionate about, I would find my niche. A background in medicine and human anatomy was broad enough for me to know I'd eventually find something to use it for.
Which activities were you involved in at ENMU?
I played and started for four years on the volleyball team at Eastern. I didn't have any student jobs, but being an athlete kept me busy enough. I participated in the Fellowship for Christian Athletes with some of my teammates and other players from Eastern. Coach kept us involved in plenty of activities, including trash cleanups on the highway and serving food at fundraisers.
Discuss your Eastern Experience.
Attending Eastern was perfect for me in the sense that I cherish comfort and closeness between people. I think human connection is one of the most important aspects of our lives, and at Eastern, it was easy to embrace that aspect because everyone was so close. It was nice heading to Anatomy and Physiology knowing some of your teammates or other athletes would be there, just as tired as you were from the workout and practice you just had before class. The professors were incomparable. They each had their own quirks, but Dr. Manny Varela always put a smile on my face each time he mentioned the game he watched me play the night before. Having professors that not only supported your efforts in class, but in what you were doing aside from reading their textbooks outside of class... it is appreciated probably more than they know.
Tell us about your job. What inspired you to work in that role?
I am a firefighter/EMT for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia. As I mentioned before, I've always had a passion for the human body, and at the same time, human connections. Looking back now, I know the passions I have are rooted in the same passions my mom has. My mom was a volunteer EMT when I was younger, for the small department in my hometown. I would spend evenings with her at the station and listen to calls as she went out for them. She worked in an ER for a large portion of my childhood, and then for a private practice. She ventured around healthcare and public safety her entire life, even becoming a deputy and working in a jail. I believe that, like my mom and her subtle indecisiveness, I wanted a career that would fulfill my passion and still give me time to adventure and fulfill other interests. When a close family friend described to me what being a career firefighter was like, I was pretty sure it was the career for me.
What are your job duties?
Fairfax County is a department that requires all firefighters to also be EMTs. This is unique to some other departments where you can choose between one or the other. I currently ride the engine in response to calls (outside fires, gas leaks, smoke alarms, house fires, building fires, car accidents, etc.), but will rotate to drive the medic unit throughout each month. As EMTs, we tend to patient care with the medics on medical calls (heart attacks, strokes, traumas, childbirth, etc.), as well.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Each call is different, and I never know what it's going to be, but I always know I'm going to be the one who's helping someone during the scariest moments of their lives. It's both rewarding and emotional on many levels, but it's what I signed up for. It's nice to know I've been trained to know what to do during the most unexpected emergencies. Aside from what the actual day-to-day duties entail, the schedule and protection this career makes available to its employees is unbelievable. I work 9-12 days, each being a 24-hour shift, each month. This allows for plenty of free time to explore other passions and spend plenty of time with family and friends. It's part of the reason why departments have to choose 40 people out of thousands of applicants each year. I'm blessed to have been offered this opportunity.
What are your short- and long-term goals for this position?
Another great aspect of the fire department is that there are so many routes you can choose to take within your career. I can choose to be a firefighter for the entirety of my career, or I can work to be a lieutenant, a captain or even a chief. I also can choose to advance in Emergency Medical Services within the department. Currently, my short-term goal is to attend paramedic school in the next couple of years. This is something I can do through the department and will help me better serve the county I work for. Being new to the department, it's hard to confirm any long-term goals yet, but I have a feeling the leadership in my blood won't let me go too long without taking a promotional exam to help better the department. It's a great place already, but I do enjoy helping others reach their goals.
Before joining the fire department, I was still serving people, but in quite a different environment. I was a server at a restaurant during my off-season while in college, then started working for Marriott International at a hotel called The Mayflower in Washington, D.C. I actually really enjoyed the position and job I attained at the hotel and am considering working part-time there on my days off from the department.
How did ENMU prepare you for your career?
While I might not have taken any courses on fire or emergencies, being at ENMU helped prepare me for my career by giving me the opportunity to be a leader on a team that changed each year. A huge aspect of my job is spending time with people. Not only the people I'm serving on the calls, but the people I'm working with. Much like the volleyball team of girls I called my second family at Eastern, I now am a part of a second family at my station. Being adaptable and personable are attributes that not everyone shares. My experience at Eastern proved to me that I would be comfortable being so close to and an important part of people's lives every day. It also taught me valuable lessons pertaining to leading a group of people that I will carry along, as I hope to one day be recognized professionally as a leader in the department.
What advice would you give to a student interested in working in your career field?
I think that if anyone as a young adult is considering public safety as a career, or emergency services, in particular, he or she should start stepping out of their comfort zone as soon as possible. Challenge yourself to do things you wouldn't normally do. I never imagined myself going to college across the country away from my family, but it was a decision my mom painfully accepted, because she knew I'm the type of person who isn't scared of risk or the unexpected. Put yourself in situations where you don't know anyone. This will help expose your communication skills, your adaptability and your confidence. Public safety is not about the pay, and it's not about convenience. It's about people. Most of the time, you are going to be the one in between death and life for the people who call you. You've got to know you're ready to accept that challenge.
Tell us about your family and background.
I am a part of a big family, being the oldest of five siblings. I grew up in the country, 30 minutes from the closest grocery store. I didn't think it was unique as a child, but of course, as I grew older and traveled more, I realized I did live in a pretty unique area. My parents and siblings are all still in Virginia, so I am blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with them here.
Who influences you? Who is your role model?
My biggest influences are my parents. They are so incredibly hard-working and have always supported and loved me. Growing up, you hear more and more different experiences of people's lives, and I can't thank God enough for the parents I have and all they did for me to become who I am today. My grandmother is my role model. She has been a huge part of my life for the entirety of it and has always been covered with a grace I can only hope to carry throughout my life.
Which accomplishments and awards have you earned?
Being a three-sport athlete, all of my accomplishments and awards up until this point in my life are related to the court or the field. I played volleyball, basketball and softball, and received numerous awards for each, but will not bore you with those. I am, however, extremely thankful for the awards of Greatest Greyhound Female Athlete for 2015 and 2016. I still can't believe that out of the many talented females I watched compete in green and silver all throughout college, I was chosen twice as a standout among them. I am truly appreciative of the team of girls I competed alongside and my coaches who pushed me to become the player I was.
What are your hobbies?
I love reading books about love. Not the sappy romantic fictions, but the non-fictions about our hearts and minds and how intertwined they are when it comes to our care for others. The world needs more of it. I like working out, alone and with others. For some reason, there's a little satisfaction I enjoy when I can push people past breaking points during a workout. I'm definitely an outdoors person. Nothing better than leaving your phone for a good book and fresh air. With all the free time I have, I'm anxious for COVID-19 mandates to drop and travel to be safe again so I can take my books around the world and see more of this great place.
Share an interesting fact about yourself.
I actually have not told anyone this, and I'm still looking deeper into making it happen. I was recently using the maps app on my phone, on satellite view, and was zooming in and out around the world looking for tiny islands I have never heard of and marking/saving their locations so that I can look into which ones I can visit. I was never big on thinking about a bucket list like a lot of people do, but after doing that, I now have a bucket list.