Answering the call

2017 KPMG Future Leader Tea Binder steps up in response to COVID-19


When the phone rings, Tea Binder is ready to respond.

A member of the 2017 KPMG Future Leaders Program’s Class, Binder is a senior at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, where she is pursuing degrees in Biology and Philosophy. In her sophomore year, Binder enrolled in an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) course, and developed a passion for the field after 16 hours of on-the-job shadowing in an ambulance. She began working for a local ambulance company shortly after receiving her certificate last May, and has since pursued EMT-Paramedic certification, which allows her to perform advanced life support skills.

When the COVID-19 response began last month, Binder’s part-time role at the ambulance company dramatically changed. Located just an hour north of the COVID-19 epicenter in New York City, Binder is now putting in 40+ hour work weeks with regularity, all while maintaining her duties as a full-time student. Binder was kind enough to lend us few moments of her time away from work and class to share some insights on her experience thus far.


What were your feelings upon realizing you would be relied on so prominently as an EMT during this pandemic, something that started as a part-time role and has accelerated at rapid pace?

I was incredibly relieved to be helping. I'm young, I have no underlying health conditions, and being away from my family in Florida, I don't have to worry about infecting anyone who is high-risk after coming into contact with possible or confirmed COVID-19 patients. I am also lucky that my ambulance company provides us with N95 masks, gowns, and goggles for every single call. I am grateful for the opportunity to be out of the house and doing something fulfilling.

There must be some very difficult moments for you in your current role in this pandemic response. In the hard times, who or what inspires you to carry on?

In this line of work, we are all somewhat accustomed to loss and grief. It is our daily reality to encounter a plethora of traumatizing scenes. In order to perform our job or just be ready for the next call, we have to stay emotionally impermeable to the tragedy of what we are witnessing. Although this never gets easy, at some point it does become routine. What nobody was prepared for, in this pandemic, was to lose each other. One paramedic I worked with went home sick one day and is now on a ventilator at the hospital. His family is not allowed to visit him. All comforting smiles are obscured from view by the cold monotony of ubiquitous face masks. As prepared as I was to see strangers die on the job, I was never ready to lose my colleagues. None of us were. The upbeat, happy-go-lucky attitude that still permeated the stations just a week ago is slowly waning. We are trying to stay positive, to make each other laugh, but this seems to get harder by the day. All we can do is face this battle one call at a time, leaning on each other for support.

How is the spirit among the individuals that you are working with? How is everyone handling these difficult times?

My coworkers are my inspiration. I watch them put their lives at risk without batting an eyelash. Aside from the extra protective equipment and prolonged decontamination procedures, not much has changed for us. Our job has always demanded that we improvise under the most disruptive condition, be it equipment failures or performing chest compressions in the mud on the side of the road. If anyone was prepared to face a global pandemic with a sober sense of calm, it was first responders.

As someone who sees the true impact of this pandemic on a daily basis, if you had a message to share with the general public about the pandemic, what would it be?

We may not know you, but we are fighting for you 24/7. Do everything you can to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community. We will take care of the rest.


KPMG recently provided meals for Binder and her team over the holiday weekend and proud of the commitment that Binder and her fellow KPMG Future Leaders continue to show to their communities and education.

For more on the KPMG Future Leaders Program, click here.