Without skipping a beat

Mizzou senior assists professor after scary fall during lecture.

Eric Prullage’s biochemistry lab started out just like any other on February 2. The small class of 10 seniors were performing experiments at their lab tables when they heard a loud noise and turned around to find that their professor, Shuqun Zhang, had suffered a major cardiac event and collapsed to the floor. Prullage immediately called 911 and administered CPR, which he had learned as an Eagle Scout.

“I’d like to think I just did what anybody else would do in that situation,” Prullage said. “I’d also like to thank everyone else who helped that day. It was not an easy situation, and I’m very grateful that Dr. Zhang was able to join us for the rest of the semester.”

Zhang was in a coma for 12 days in the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital. He then had 10 days where he was able to speak to others at the hospital but does not remember. After a few months of rest, Zhang was recently able to return to the classroom to teach and has made a full recovery.

Picture of Eric Prullage and his parents and Dr. Zhang and his wife.

CAFNR held a ceremony to thank Eric for his efforts in saving Dr. Zhang's life. He was joined by his parents (left) and Dr. Zhang and his wife (right).

“If Eric hadn’t called 911 and done CPR right away, I don’t think I ever would have been able to come back to teach,” Zhang said. “When blood stops flowing to the brain, brain cells start to die due to the lack of oxygen.”

An ambulance arrived within three minutes. As luck would have it, Justin Brooke, a paramedic called to the scene, was a recent Mizzou graduate with a degree in biochemistry.

“He knew exactly which room to go to because he had taken the class before,” Zhang said.

Zhang grew up in China and went to Nanjing University where he studied biology. He later earned a doctoral degree at the University of Texas at Austin before going to Rutgers University in New Jersey for his post-doctorate studies. There, he conducted research on plant immunity and defense against pathogens. Zhang came to Mizzou in 1998 and has been teaching for the past 20 years. In 2013, Zhang received the Distinguished Researcher Award from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

“My favorite part of teaching is helping the students learn and conducting research as well,” Zhang said.

Prullage is one of many students that Zhang has had a positive impact on in the classroom. As a biochemistry major and chemistry minor, Prullage attended Mizzou for its accredited biochemistry program and research opportunities. He graduated in May.

“Working in labs and getting feedback from professors has helped me improve massively as a scientist,” Prullage said. “Dr. Zhang creates a useful learning experience where I can refine my critical thinking skills in a very practical sense.”

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