Call9 CCS Wins Syracuse Civic Innovation Challenge

Don Lough, a Call9 Clinical Care Specialist, is also a Syracuse firefighter.

Don Lough, a Call9 Clinical Care Specialist, is also a Syracuse firefighter.


At Call9, we’re a team of builders.

Traditional healthcare companies often attract operators — people who join a system that’s already working. But as a mission-driven startup, we attract builders — people who run towards a problem when others retreat. Call9ers, as we’re often referred, embrace the opportunity to create something where there was previously nothing.

Don Lough does that every day in his role as a Call9 Clinical Care Specialist at Bishop Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Syracuse, NY. Last year, he also did it in his role as a firefighter by creating Helping Hands Syracuse, a program to teach New Americans how to conduct hands-only CPR in their own language.

As a firefighter for the City of Syracuse for the past 12 years, Lough has seen firsthand the need in his community; 12.5% of Syracuse’s population is foreign-born, and 44% of those people live in the area he works.

“I work at Station 2 on the north side of Syracuse, which has a high population of New Americans,” Lough said. “We respond to a number of EMS alarms up on the north side where there is often a language barrier, which is what gave me the idea for this program.”

When a sudden cardiac event happens in the home or outside of a hospital, time is vital to a person’s survival. Language barriers can make it difficult for the EMS dispatcher to talk through the steps of CPR to a caller during an emergency.

In August 2018, the City of Syracuse hosted the inaugural Civic Innovation Challenge, in which City employees had the opportunity to submit innovative ideas to address City challenges. Lough was selected from a group of 20 applicants as one of five finalists who pitched their ideas in front of a panel of judges, including Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. Helping Hands Syracuse was named a winner!


As one of two winners, Lough received funds for the Mayor’s office to implement the program. He hosted a kickoff in October at the Syracuse Fire Department that offered workshops, games, prizes and more.

“I was shaking like a leaf during the presentation!” Lough said. “But it was a great experience and a real honor to win this competition.”

Lough said that the first phase of implementing Helping Hands Syracuse is to create instructions for people in their own language. So far, Lough has worked with volunteers to translate the nine-step CPR instruction cards into a dozen languages, including French, Arabic, Burmese and KinyaRwanda. From there, the Fire Department will host hands-on CPR training sessions in other languages.

And Lough will keep on building something that people need and providing access to tools that save lives.

Ashley Langan