ST. JOHN | In the Vuckovic family, becoming a lifeguard is almost a rite of passage.
Patriarch Dr. Stevan Vuckovic, EMS medical director at Franciscan St. Anthony Health hospital in Crown Point and an emergency medicine physician, started as a lifeguard. His four children are lifeguards or are aspiring to be one.
One day, his daughter Alex Vuckovic rushed home and told him a story that made him suspect she would follow in his footsteps in the medical field.
A woman had passed out on her shoulder while Alex was serving as a lifeguard, and she wanted to tell her dad all the details.
"I could see she was bitten by the bug of taking care of people," her father said.
He encouraged her to feed that passion.
During her senior year at Lake Central High School, she attended EMT school. She followed with paramedic training that gave her experience in a variety of units, such as cardiology and neonatology.
At 20 years old, she is studying biology and pre-med at Indiana University Northwest in Gary. She aspires to become a physician. Her classmates at IUN gave her weird looks when they learned she works as a paramedic, while they take a more traditional route to medical school.
"The more experience I get, the better I'll get at taking care of people," she said.
Alex works as a part-time EMT with the Lakes of the Four Seasons Fire Department and interns with the St. John Fire Department as a paramedic.
"I have seen everything from falls to full arrests and everything in between," she said.
Working with whom she calls some of the best paramedics around gives her an advantage, she said.
"I'm so grateful, and I love that I get to learn from some of the best," Alex said.
Her dad's path to becoming a doctor started in a hands-on role as an emergency responder as well. He said it's "pretty cool" to hear his daughter's enthusiasm about a future in medicine. Her work as an EMT and paramedic is giving her experience that not many physicians get, he said.
"It's really hard to get into med school," Stevan said. "What made me stand out as a med student was that I had the background as a paramedic. These guys (paramedics) can do a lot of advanced procedures."
He started as a hospital volunteer in an emergency department at age 16. Two years later, he became an EMT. He worked as a paramedic for 12 years and spent time on the Crestwood Fire Department in Illinois, going to school on his off days to become a doctor in emergency medicine.
Stevan has worked at St. Anthony since 1995 and in the medical field since 1982 in some form. Every day, he learns something new, he said. It is important to stay humble and not be lulled in complacency in this line of work, he said.
His daughter, he said, has the qualities for continued success in the medical field.
"She stays calm during crisis situations; she's a listener, she's bright, she has good people skills – all things to help her," Stevan said.
Both father and daughter love helping others. They would prefer nothing bad happen to people, but they are ready.
"I want to be there when it does," they said in unison.