Medical Professor Promoting Stayin’ Alive CPR

National CPR Awareness Week kicked off on June 5 in New York City with a Hawaiʻi medical school teaching innovation packaged up and presented with Hollywood flair. Alson Inaba, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine professor and physician, was part of an elaborate media event in New York City that featured dancers in all-white disco-era suits, like the one John Travolta wore in Saturday Night Fever, and mass demonstrations of the disco-derived CPR teaching technique that Inaba created in a JABSOM classroom seven years ago.

The American Heart Association National CPR Week Kick-Off recognized Inaba for creating the Stayin’ Alive or hands-only method, which has become a life-saving phenomenon. AHA has adopted the Bee Gees’ hit and Inaba’s technique in international video public service announcements and uses the Travolta-suit logo as a key element of its CPR public education campaign.

“I still cannot fully comprehend how my one little idea of using the beats in the tune Stayin’ Alive to teach the correct rates for chest compression has exploded worldwide,” said Inaba.

Alson Inaba, Tom Elowsen, Tom Maimone

Alson Inaba, center, with Tom Elowsen, left, who used Inaba's technique to save the life of Tom Maimone, right (photo courtesy of the John A. Burns School of Medicine)

During the kick-off event, Inaba met a man who was saved by his teaching method. Tom Maimone suffered cardiac arrest in April 2009. He was revived by Tom Elowsen, who had never taken a CPR lesson but had seen a news segment about the Stayin’ Alive technique a few months earlier.

“I’m glad that lives are being saved and that this easy-to-remember technique of performing CPR is giving more and more people the confidence to perform CPR on victims of sudden cardiac arrest,” said Inaba.

How the Stayin’ Alive method was born

Inaba came up with the concept of using Stayin’ Alive to liven up a learning session at JABSOM in 2005.

“I don’t like boring presentations, so I created a skit in which one student walked up onto the stage and suddenly collapsed. Then a group of MD medical trainees, sporting dark glasses, gold chains and a boom box blaring Stayin’ Alive rushed up to the stage to perform CPR,” said Inaba.

“My teaching point was ‘let’s do everything we can to help this guy stay alive.‘ That got me to thinking about the beat of Stayin’ Alive, which has about 100 beats per minute— the same rate the AHA recommends for CPR chest compressions.”

JABSOM medical students practiced on robot patients, and before long, “they were humming and strutting releasing their inner John Travolta,” Inaba said.

Adated from John A. Burns School of Medicine news release.

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. The news about Dr. Inaba and his technique is big, big news! Hope UH has sent press releases to all local(and national) news and media. Can easily see him and technique being shown on national talk shows. Please notify everyone if/when there were/will be appearances or broadcasts of stories.

    1. Al…I agree! We are so proud of Dr. Inaba, here at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. He got lots of media attention in New York City with the New York Times, Men’s Health Magazine, Good Morning America and Everyday Health, thanks to the American Heart Association. We also got mentions on Hawaii News Now and KHON2 News, and we expect Ben Wood to write about him in tomorrow’s Star-Advertiser. It’s challenging sometimes to interest local news media in such “good news”, given their constraints in staffing and editorial space (or air time), but we keep trying! Meantime, we’ve done a lot of coverage on our “own” channel, at (click through to our news site UHMEDNow.) Tune in! Mahalo for your positive comment! :) Tina Shelton at the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine

  2. I wish I learned CPR like this, rather than in a traditional classroom. It’s more interesting, and more importantly the students will remember it better!

  3. Aloha, Carol. We are so glad you liked the story about Dr. Inaba. We are so proud of him. It’s wonderful that now people all over the world are learning CPR the way he taught it–for the first time ever–in a UH medical school classroom in 2005. Thanks again for your positive comment! Tina Shelton, at the John A. Burns School of Mediciine.

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