What is an MRC? The concept of the Medical Reserve Corps
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is the component of the Citizen Corps that is organizing local volunteers to assist regular medical response professionals and facilities during a large-scale local emergency, such as an influenza epidemic or a hazardous materials spill. Health professionals (current, retired, or otherwise employed) and others with relevant skills (such as students in the health professions) are being offered the opportunity to volunteer their time and skills within a planned, organized, and coordinated local MRC, united during times of emergency. MRC volunteers can also serve a vital role by assisting their communities with ongoing public health needs.
Who we are: The UVAMRC and our purpose
The University of Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (UVAMRC) is a joint student-faculty community service and outreach project, housed in the UVa Health System. The UVAMRC was started in 2003 by medical students, in part as a response to the surge of preparations being made in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They desired to more thoroughly integrate medical responders into the overall disaster response structure for the Charlottesville metropolitan region, while also providing a source of credentialed personnel for non-emergent events. While emergency medical services had long been incorporated into disaster planning, there was a need to ensure second-line medical personnel could be effectively included in any large-scale response.
The UVAMRC is the first Medical Reserve Corps with a student leadership model and one of a growing number of university-based programs across the country. The UVAMRC works with many local, state, and national groups to supplement the local and regional medical response during a major disaster or bioterror event. The UVAMRC also initiates and develops ongoing community health projects that serve our local area.
The State of the UVAMRC: Established 2003
From its inception in the Fall of 2003, the UVA Medical Reserve Corps has striven to benefit the community in unique ways. Our purpose is to supplement the existing emergency response structure with trained and certified health professionals and students from every field, as well as members from the community at large. As a result of its integration with the local emergency planning and response organizations, a main success of the program thus far has been affording a means of collaboration among response organizations that had not previously existed.
Relation to the University and Community
The UVAMRC is a student run organization under the auspices of the Medical School and therefore the university. The leadership is organized in the Student Coordinating Committee and benefits from the guidance of Edward Kantor, MD, our faculty advisor, and other faculty members. Dr. Kantor also chairs the Professional Advisory Board, a group of representatives from local and state agencies. Input from the PAB helps the SCC ensure the MRC will smoothly coalesce with the first-line response units, such as fire, EMS, and police. Its input also helps the SCC tailor the organization to meet the perceived needs of the community.
Our initial funding came from a federal grant and currently no direct funding comes from The University or the UVA Health System. The Health System provides office space for the organization in the Psychiatry Department, as part of our indirect grant funding. Despite being housed in within the Medical School, the UVAMRC is beholden to neither the University nor the hospital in the event of a disaster. In fact, we make no specific agreements regarding distribution of manpower prior to a disaster. The UVAMRC exists to meet the needs of the community at large. In the event of an large scale activation, our focus will be to apply our manpower to help the affected population in the best way possible by working with the Emergency Operations Center to augment the appropriate agencies.
Where we stand today
Currently the UVAMRC has over 300 members, including doctors, physician assistants, nurses, technical staff, medical students, psychologists, and others.
General meetings occur quartely and usually include some type of training exercise for the general membership. It also provides a forum for communication between the members and the leadership.
Training occurs in three primary ways. Initially, all members must complete online training modules. General meetings usually include some type of brief training exercise or informational session on important subjects in disaster response. In addition to these recurrent training sessions, the SCC looks for opportunities to run its own drills or work in conjunction with another agency to increase our member's exposure to live-action scenarios. Further details on specific training requirements can be found on our website.
The past few years have been productive for the UVAMRC. There is a massive increase of involvement from health professionals, students, and the general community, leading to over 200 active members. Each month, in an effort to prepare and train its members in the different aspects of emergency response, the UVAMRC provided training sessions that focused on anthrax, the logistics of a mass dispensing clinic, mass casualty incident management, smallpox vaccinations, disaster mental health, and an introduction to disaster and terrorism emergency response.
The UVAMRC has been involved in various programs and events in the area. In June of 2004, in order to bridge medical education and emergency response education, the UVAMRC assisted in a day-long Clinical Connection day for 3rd year medical students. The UVAMRC has continued to assist with this training every year since, including the most recent Clinical Connections Disaster Medicine Day.
In July 2004, the UVAMRC was highlighted at the 2004 Medical Reserve Corps National Leadership Conference as a model for university-based MRCs, with a presentation given detailing “best-practices.” Selected leadership of the UVAMRC also attended the 2005, 2006 and 2007 National MRC Conferences and were invited to present a talk entitled "Training Physicians and Health Professionals in Disaster and Bioterrorism: Gearing up for the Core Competancy Movement in Medical Education" in 2005. At the 2006 National Leadership Conference in Dallas, TX, the student directors and faculty director of the UVAMRC gave presentations on "Implementing Disaster Training in a Medical School Curriculum," which was based on their involvement in the Clinical Connections training day. Other presentations given at these meetings by UVAMRC members included the utilization of Americorps members in an MRC, Disaster mental health first aid and the Identification and Badging of Volunteers. In addition, the UVAMRC was asked to chair a national committee to develop program guidance for other universities seeking to start similar projects.
In 2004, the UVAMRC was an integral part of the area’s Mass-Immunization and Dispensing Clinic Drill held at University Hall and members of the UVAMRC used their training to help the community by assisting in the Thomas Jefferson Health District's Flu Vaccination Clinic, providing essential assistance, manpower, and leadership in the first mass dispensing exercise in Charlottesville. The UVAMRC has continued to participate in preparedness-related drills including a Mass Casualty Drill at the local airport, another Mass Dispensing Clinic and a UVA Health System disaster drill in 2005 as well as a 2006 flu vaccination clinic for emergency responders.