Update from Dr. Molly O’Dell for July 22 Edition

The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts have faced tremendous challenges to meet the needs brought on by COVID-19. Our staff have risen to the call and worked hard to maintain our core public health functions and take on COVID-19. In addition to staff, the health districts have mobilized an incredible volunteer resource called the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). The MRC is a force of dedicated volunteers who stand ready to support the community in the event of a public health emergency, and they have done just that with our COVID-19 response. Our regional MRC unit is the Near Southwest Medical Reserve Corps, and it is comprised of both medical and non-medical volunteers.

In our health district, over 260 MRC volunteers have completed over 2,000 volunteer hours. Volunteers packed kits of face coverings and hand sanitizer provided from the Governor’s Health Equity Task Force and distributed them door to door. Volunteers have also supported our testing efforts by completing data entry, providing educational material, and calling those who test negative. Some volunteers helped staff a nursing home overwhelmed with an outbreak. MRC has contacted thousands of people identified as close contacts of positive cases since March.

Amy Beahm, Public Health Nurse, has been leading the health district’s efforts to distribute PPE that was distributed from the National Stockpile to non-affiliated healthcare systems. One MRC, a medical student at the Virginia Tech School of Medicine, Dakota Buhrman, supported Amy’s efforts by reaching out to all doctors to assess their PPE supply and organize the distribution of supplies accordingly. “Dakota was amazingly instrumental in the PPE distribution efforts,” said Amy.

Another volunteer, Elizabeth Leffel, coordinated an effort early on in our COVID-19 response to proactively reach out to long-term care facilities to assess their supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), FIT testing for N-95 masks, and infection control understanding.

Uyen Nguyen has been volunteering with the health department since the beginning of the pandemic. She’s supported projects ranging from emergency planning, call center support, and has even supported the volunteer management process. She shared, “It’s about meeting people and constantly learning… The folks I’ve volunteered with all shared unique and amazing insights no matter what age group they belong to.” She also shared, “I’ve come to realize the weight of COVID on the minds of people. Many ordinary folks still have to make ends meet, pay their bills, or take care of their children and families and are eager to finally get back to work as soon as possible, while, on the other side, our labs, nurses and staff have to stay late or work hard over the weekend to deliver hundreds of results to people so that they can safely resume work or school in a timely manner. Everybody is worried and wants to do the right thing.” 

It is nice to stop and reflect back on the MRC and how valuable they have been over these past months. We could not have stayed on top of all the priorities without these wonderful volunteers, and I am grateful we have them on our team. This article is one simple way to say THANK YOU to all of our MRC. Uyen said, “I really can’t speak about it (volunteering with MRC0 enough. There is a role for everyone at the MRC no matter the level of commitment an individual has to contribute. Anyone can help build their community by contributing or being involved, an hour (or more) at a time! Joining the MRC is the true definition of ‘…by the people, for the people’!”

For more information or to sign up, visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/mrc/.

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