In our most recent Journal of Change issue, we feature six leaders who are making a difference in community health in Philadelphia and across our region. These dynamic individuals were named Future Leaders because although each one has a unique cause, they all share a dedication to the people and communities they serve. Over the next few months, we’ll be interviewing each leader to find out more about their passion, their vision, and their impact.
A Drive to Give Back to His Community
Our second featured leader is Konstantinos Totolos, project coordinator for The Mobile CPR Project. As an individual who believes in giving back to the communities around him, Totolos shares how his personal experience molded and inspired him to get involved in The Mobile CPR Project.
IBC Foundation: You are applying to medical school this summer, what inspired you to pursue medicine?
Totolos: When I was younger, I drove my grandma around to her appointments and I got to experience what it was like sitting in the hospital room with her. The hospital staff and doctors treated my grandma, and me, with such compassion, that it inspired me to pursue medicine.
IBC Foundation: How did you get involved with The Mobile CPR Project?
Totolos: The Center for Resuscitation Science at the University of Pennsylvania sent out volunteer research assistant requests for a different project to my girlfriend’s school and she forwarded that email to me. I applied and became a volunteer research assistant for about two years. After I graduated from college, I applied and got the position of project coordinator at The Mobile CPR Project, a public health project based in the Center.
IBC Foundation: Have there been any changes to The Mobile CPR Project in the past year?
Totolos: Recently, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation gave us the goal to reach 10,000 people in three years. One of the biggest things that happened is that we trained more than 4,200 people in this year alone. So, combined with those we trained previously, we are at 6,200 of our 10,000-person goal.
IBC Foundation: How does The Mobile CPR Project help the community?
Totolos: The moment I moved to Philadelphia, I realized that this city is my home and I need to take care of it by doing work in the community. I know that there is low intervention for cardiac arrest in the city, which means not many people are administering CPR. So, when my colleagues and I are teaching people this life-saving skill, it’s not only helping them out, but it’s also helping everyone around them as well because cardiac arrest doesn’t discriminate; it can happen to anyone.
IBC Foundation: Is there any advice you can give to someone who is aspiring to make a positive impact on their community?
Totolos: Sometimes it’s hard to go into underserved communities because you might be afraid of how someone in the community would react. But you should always try to step out of your comfort zone; you may be surprised by what you find. Many people are willing to learn, and even better, many people are willing to work with you, too. Your friends should always be pushing you forward, so try to work together with your friends and don’t let anybody hold you back from helping communities.
IBC Foundation: How else are you involved in the community?
Totolos: A friend of mine that went to Drexel University told me about the Old Pines Community Center here in Philadelphia and I decided to get involved, working directly with the senior citizens there while an undergraduate student. Before I graduated from Rowan University, I took part in one of their events called Back to the Boro, which involved a group of more than 1500 Rowan University students. During this event we all split up and went to help the neighborhoods in Glassboro, New Jersey. It was great — a very influential experience for me.