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Kansas City University medical student helped Joplin tornado victims as teenager

Tanner Riscoe
Posted at 5:00 AM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 12:39:44-04

JOPLIN, Mo. — In May 2011, an EF-5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri, killing more than 160 people.

That day, Tanner Riscoe was 16 years old, and put himself in a position to help people injured in the storm. While his father, an emergency room doctor, went to St. John’s hospital, Riscoe helped to set up people in another part of town.

"We kind of meandered our way as best we could to Memorial Hall, where they had established a triage site,” Riscoe said. “It was a perfect set-up, it was about two basketball courts wide, and we gathered tables, paramedics brought supplies that they had. Luckily Metro Emergency Transport System is right next door, so they were able to bring some supplies over. And it was really all hands on deck, and we had a fully functioning triage system up within a couple of hours."

As the son of a doctor, Riscoe had been around the medical community his entire life.

He’d even traveled with a group of doctors to Haiti in 2010, to help people recovering from a devastating earthquake. But he says watching the doctors and nurses in Joplin respond to that tornado left a mark on him.

"Initially when I got to Memorial Hall, I just saw all of my second family from the emergency room, they all knew to come in,” Riscoe said. “And everyone from the hospital at St. John's, whoever was close by did their darnedest to make it to Memorial Hall to be able to help. Seeing that, even though the building was gone, seeing the people from St. John's really come together and help in that manner, it was really unique because you just saw everyone flooding in, and doing whatever they could to assemble some form of triage as quickly as possible."

Today, Riscoe is a third-year medical student at Kansas City University's Joplin campus.

He says that there are lessons he still carries with him that day that influence his medical philosophy.

"It's been ten years now, and I think back on those events often,” Riscoe said. “I think I did what was right at the time, and what I could within my means. Knowing the medical basis of knowledge that I have now, I don't think I would change a thing about how I approached that day. Because you're never really fully prepared to take on a disaster like that."

Riscoe, like many other students at the KCU campus, intends to stay in Joplin after he finishes medical school.