About the Medical Reserve Corps
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) was founded after President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address, in which he asked all Americans to volunteer in support of their country. MRC is a specialized component of Citizen Corps, a national network of volunteers.
MRC units are community-based and function as a way to locally organize and utilize volunteers – medical professionals and others – who want to donate their time and expertise to promote healthy living throughout the year and to prepare for and respond to emergencies. MRC volunteers supplement existing local emergency and public health resources.
MRC volunteers include medical and public health professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, and epidemiologists. Other community members, such as interpreters, chaplains, office workers and legal advisors, can fill other vital support positions.
Any government agency or not-for profit organization can sponsor an MRC unit, including health departments, boards of health, faith-based organizations, emergency management agencies, universities and Citizen Corps Councils. Partnerships are key to the success and sustainability of the MRC, so leaders are strongly encouraged to establish a strong community network with response partners, government officials and even local businesses to help identify needs, negotiate differences, work out conflicts and optimize shared resources.
What Can MRC Volunteers Do?
Support local public health initiatives and the goals of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010, while advancing the priorities of the Surgeon General.
- Promoting disease prevention
- Improving health disparities
- Enhancing public health preparedness
Assist local hospitals and health departments with surge personnel needs
- Participate in mass prophylaxis and vaccination exercises and community disaster drills.
- Train with local emergency response partners
Why was the MRC created?
There was an outpouring of support for the emergency relief efforts after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Many Americans asked, “What can I do to help?” Medical and public health professionals were among those who wanted to volunteer their services, but many were not able to do so. Using public health and medical volunteers in emergencies requires an organized approach and these individuals were not known to the emergency management system. While they may have had very necessary skills and knowledge, they could not be used because they were not identified, credentialed or trained in advance.
The anthrax attacks in Fall 2001 reinforced the need for pre-identified and trained supplemental medical and public health personnel to assist with emergency operations such as mass antibiotic dispensing or mass immunization campaigns. The anthrax missions provided medications to almost 40,000 individuals. If these events were much larger, the Federal responders could have been overwhelmed and extra personnel may have been required.
To help meet these needs, the Medical Reserve Corps Program was formed in 2002, in cooperation with the White House’s USA Freedom Corps, as one of the charter programs of Citizen Corps. Pre-identifying, training and organizing medical and public health professionals to strengthen their communities through volunteerism is at the core of the MRC concept. MRC volunteers offer their expertise throughout the year by supporting local public health initiatives, such as immunization and prevention activities. When an emergency community need occurs, MRC volunteers can work in coordination with existing local emergency response programs.
A formerly untapped community resource, Medical Reserve Corps is a viable and accessible entity for emergencies and ongoing public health efforts.