April 14, 2024
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HP’s Liana Maza Volunteers As an EMT During Seminary

If you’re looking for a role model of drive and determination, Liana Maza may inspire you.

Maza, 18 years old, is one of three children of Dr. Lauren and Avi Maza of Highland Park. While attending Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, she was an honor student and served as captain of the girls’ basketball team. She also participated in the regional Chidon HaTanach competition and became a finalist in two different years.

During summer recess, Maza went to summer camp and filled all the unscheduled weeks before and after by working as an intern in her mother’s medical practice in Woodbridge. She learned the rhythms and vocabulary of the field and found the work very satisfying.

She graduated Kushner in June 2019 and looked forward to attending Midreshet Sha’alvim in Yerushalayim in the fall. While preparing for her year abroad, she decided that she wasn’t going to lose focus on her career goals.

Maza enrolled in a rigorous eight-week EMT training course given by the Safe-T organization. The class, held at the Marlboro first aid squad’s building, met for eight hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The class came with a 1700-page textbook and students were expected to learn large parts of the material on their own; she recalls spending a few all-nighters as she taught herself anatomy, physiology and other topics. She was one of a very few recent high school grads in the class.

Each class session included a written test and one or two practical tests. Students were allowed to retake one written test, if they didn’t pass it the first time. If they didn’t pass a second test, they were asked to leave the class. At the start of the class, there were 22 students but by the end, only nine students remained.

Maza passed the class and decided that she wanted to get the best certification possible, so she registered to take the EMT test offered by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. The test is considered the most comprehensive and challenging EMT exam in the field and Maza shared that “it was the hardest test I ever took in my life.” She took the exam at Princeton University on August 30, a week or so before leaving for her year in Israel. A few days later she learned that she had passed the test and officially had national certification.

Maza was not content merely to spend the summer pushing herself to the limit to get EMT certified; she also spent the other days of the week at a basketball camp, to hone her skills as a player.

She left for Israel and arrived at Sha’alvim in mid-September. While a “regular” seminary student might take time to settle in and perhaps find a conventional chesed assignment, Maza hoped to do something challenging that would allow her to use her new training. She wanted to volunteer for Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency medical services, blood services and disaster-relief organization. After lengthy discussions with the seminary’s administrators, Maza was given the green light to try the unusual arrangement.

However, when she reached out to MDA, the person she initially spoke with thought she needed to take an MDA-sanctioned course to be able to ride on their ambulances. Maza worked to convince them that the national EMT certification she received in the U.S. was more than sufficient training. She enlisted an ally in their Jerusalem office, Uriel, who understood the value of her certification and argued on her behalf. Ultimately, MDA welcomed her as a volunteer on its team.

Maza’s first shift with MDA was on Wednesday, November 20, from 7 a.m. to 3p.m.. She found herself on an ambulance with all Hebrew-only speakers and couldn’t understand the quick-spoken medical terms they used. She contented herself with observing their procedures and learning where supplies were on the rig.

Her second shift, several days later, was more engaging, as the head medic spoke English and she already knew where the supplies were located. She found herself pitching in on different calls and in one, helped to calm a recent oleh who was involved in an auto accident. Her third shift was even more welcoming as the English-speaking head paramedic arranged for her to ride with a whole group of American olim.

Maza is finding her MDA shifts very fulfilling and hopes to continue them on a weekly basis, while juggling school work, time out with friends and attending a weekly basketball practice with Tamir Goodman. Maza hopes that others will consider the route she’s taking, stating that “attending seminary is the perfect time to take on something like this, because there’s no homework. You’re in Israel and you can help save lives, while building your skills.”

Her dad, Avi, head of the Avi Maza Orchestra, praised his daughter. “What I really admire about Liana is that she has incredible tenacity. She’s shown this drive in many areas of her life. When she has a goal, she strives to get to the next level to achieve it. She took the most difficult EMT course, which was very demanding, and then went to get national certification, which many EMTs don’t have. And she persuaded her school that even though working with MDA is not a conventional choice, it was the right thing for her. Liana is truly remarkable.”

“I’m so proud of Liana,” added her mom, Lauren. “She challenged herself to get the national EMT certification and now has challenged herself even more, by putting her training to use in an unfamiliar environment while working with Hebrew-speaking medics. It’s a great learning experience for her to see how different cultures, economic backgrounds and settings can affect health. She’s passionate about the medical field and I’m impressed with all she’s done to get involved in it.”

By Harry Glazer

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