Preston Harpe and Gary Zgutowicz, from the East Central Health District (ECHD), joined nearly 400 Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) leaders from across the country at the third annual MRC National Leadership Conference, in San Francisco, on April 20-22, 2005. The conference, which was hosted by the Office of the United States Surgeon General, was designed to better equip MRC units with the tools they need to effectively respond to a public health emergency in their area.
“It was a tremendous learning experience to attend this meeting with other Medical Reserve Corps leaders from across the country,” stated Mr. Harpe, Community Resource Specialist for the East Central Health District. “I think that communities in the ECHD are well equipped to handle a public health emergency, but we can never be too prepared. The members of the MRC will continue to work with local and national leaders to ensure a stronger public health response,” he further explained.
MRC units are community-based and function as a specialized component of the Citizen Corps, a national network of volunteers dedicated to making sure their families, homes, and communities are safe from terrorism, crime, and disasters of all kinds. Citizen Corps, AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Peace Corps are all part of the President’s USA Freedom Corps, which promotes volunteerism and service throughout the United States.
Specifically, Medical Reserve Corps units are made of locally based, medical, public health, and other volunteers who can assist their communities during emergencies, such as an influenza epidemic, a chemical spill, or an act of terrorism. In addition, MRC volunteers can offer education and prevention services to improve the public health infrastructure of their neighborhoods and communities.
U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona opened the conference by presenting his uniquely informed views on the MRC’s development. The MRC National Program Office is housed in the Office of the Surgeon General. Dr. Carmona spoke on the MRC’s vital role in improving emergency preparedness and strengthening America’s public health infrastructure.
“Whenever there is a public health emergency, local responders are the first on the scene and the last to leave, so it’s imperative that they have the information and tools necessary to give the best immediate care possible,” Dr. Carmona said. “By continuing to build our public health infrastructure, including the creation and development of Medical Reserve Corps units, we can help ensure a safer and healthier nation. It was good to have Mr. Harpe and Mr. Zgutowicz there to share the good things that The East Central Health District Medical Reserve Corps is doing and learn from other of their colleagues.” They also gave a presentation to the conferees about the Rural Virtual University developed by the ECHD MRC to offer on-line training to the MRC members. Their presentation was received well and created significant interest in the training medium.
Over the past year, the ECHD Medical Reserve Corps members participated in two emergency preparedness exercises in Glascock and Emanuel counties while building its volunteer base to over 500 members. The MRC is always looking for more volunteers. If interested, please contact Mr. Harpe at 706-729-2252 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call your local Health Department.
There are currently 266 MRC units across the country. For more information on the Medical Reserve Corps, please visit www.medicalreservecorps.gov.
Public Relations Information Coordinator