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Three Perspectives on Volunteering, Growth and Service with the Medical Reserve Corps

Author: Esmeralda Pereira, Director of the Medical Reserve Corps Program
Published Date: 12/3/2018 12:28:00 PM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; Response & Recovery;

As the holidays approach, many people are thinking about ways that they can give back to their communities and help others. Volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a great way to help your community become healthier – during disasters and every day. Across the country, MRC units offer both medical and non-medical volunteers opportunities to serve people in their communities and a chance to network with other volunteers, learn new skills through training, and gain experience in emergency management and response.

Approximately 190,000 people volunteer with the MRC to strengthen public health, improve emergency response capabilities, and build community resiliency. We asked three of them to tell us why they volunteer with the MRC and share some of their experiences. Here are their stories.

Joining a Great Team, Getting Hands-on Experience, and Protecting Community Health

Rebecca Allen is a medical volunteer with the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates MRC in Washington, DC, and is an M.D. candidate, Class of 2020, at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“There are a number of reasons I volunteer with the MRC. I have the opportunity to work with an amazing team of not only doctors and health care providers but also Department of Defense employees, military officers, and law enforcement personnel. I genuinely enjoy providing patient care during national events like the 4th of July celebration in Washington, DC. It’s phenomenal hands-on experience for someone early in their medical training. I can always plan on coming away knowing that I helped the community that day and I always have a great time doing it." 

“I think, however, a large reason I continue to volunteer with the MRC is that small chance of something unplanned happening. A lot of our MRC training focuses on what we would do in an emergency. We live in a world where mass casualty incidents are never outside the realm of possibility. Growing up outside of D.C., I have vivid memories of 9/11, the anthrax attacks, and the D.C. sniper. My father was working at the Navy Yard during the mass shooting in 2013. So, in some ways, it is personal. I honestly hope none of these things ever happen again, but if they do, I know I want to be there to help do my part.”

You Don’t Need to be a Doctor to Fight the Flu in Your Community

Jim Watkins is a non-medical volunteer with the Cape Girardeau MRC unit in Cape Girardeau, MO, and a retired school teacher and principal.  He also serves as the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Coordinator for 14 counties in southeast Missouri. 

“Volunteering with the Cape Girardeau Medical Reserve Corps is an honor. The staff at the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center are wonderful to work for and with."
 “The staff give instructions to volunteers on how to assist their clients, making a positive experience for everyone involved. For example, at a flu immunization clinic, while doctors and nurses carry out their medical mission, other volunteers, such as myself, with little medical knowledge, can assist clients and staff by setting up the area for a flu clinic, getting clients into the right immunization line, and helping clients fill out the paperwork."  
“Another way to assist can be directing traffic during the drive-through clinics, in which we provide care to individuals without them having to leave their cars."
 “The Cape Girardeau County MRC also supports the local community through its Public Health Center, which provides a number of health services to community members, including asthma management and immunizations.
“As an MRC volunteer, I can play a significant role in assisting the Health Center meet its mission of providing outreach to the community in which I live. I appreciate being a part of a successful program.”

Helping Members of the Deaf Community Prepare for Disasters

A.J. Moody is a deaf non-medical volunteer with the Rocky Mountain MRC in Aurora, Colorado.

“I volunteer to make sure people know how to prepare for any kind of emergency and to stay safe and informed. Most people think they are prepared, but that isn’t always the case. It is difficult to be prepared because emergencies happen so fast, to the point where people may be overwhelmed. I want to make sure you have everything ready to go when something happens!"
“I have participated in many different exercises as a survivor so that responders can experience the challenges of communicating with deaf people. I became the Deaf Community Leader in our MRC’s Community Inclusion Project. In this position, I teach emergency preparedness topics to the Deaf community in our preferred language, American Sign Language (ASL)."
 “In 2017, I trained our MRC volunteers on how to communicate with a deaf survivor during the Point of Dispensing exercise, and I also presented the Are You Ready? course at the National Black Deaf Advocates Conference in Baltimore, MD."
 “This year I have worked with University of Colorado, Assistive Technology Partners, on an Emergency Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities online training project. This training is being developed for individuals with disabilities, their family members, and their caregivers who were not able to attend trainings in person due to their locations or availability."
 “The online training will include closed captioning and a deaf trainer (me) providing ASL interpretation of the individual interviews and videos. Video descriptions, larger fonts, simple language, image-based handouts, and a Spanish version will also be made available."
“Once completed, the training will be posted on the University of Colorado, Assistive Technology Partners, website and be available for free to anyone who goes to the website.”

Join MRC to Protect Health in Your Community

Want to hear why others volunteer with the MRC? Check out additional volunteer profiles on the MRC website. As these stories demonstrate, the MRC has opportunities for volunteers to help their communities in many different ways. If you are thinking about ways to give back to your community this holiday season, MRC may have volunteer opportunities that are right for you. 

To get started, find an MRC unit near you. If you need help, you can email us at MRCcontact@hhs.gov or call 202-692-4724. There are nearly 900 MRC units across the United States and its territories. But if there are no MRC units close to you, you can also form a new one.


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