COVID-19 outbreak shows importance of Medical Reserve Corps

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Likhit Agrawal

By Likhit Agrawal, MRC Volunteer

Until I joined the Denton County Public Health Medical Reserve Corps, I, like probably most of you, didn’t even know this organization existed. I only found it by chance when looking for ways to give back to my community through a public health focus.

For a brief history, the Medical Reserve Corps were started after the September 11th attacks when then President Bush stated he wanted to create the Freedom Corps to allow all Americans to help out in their community. The MRC is an offshoot of the Freedom Corps with a focus on disaster relief, public health, medication dispensing, and pretty much whatever they can do to help out the county they are associated with.

This recent outbreak of COVID-19 has shown me just how important the MRC is to both me and where we live.

When I first went to orientation I never thought that I would actually be responding to any sort of situation. As Americans it seems that disasters, diseases, and most of what is bad is usually far away from us. Unfortunately this year, a virus turned into a global pandemic that has ravaged parts of the world including here in the USA. It was this outbreak that spurred an activation of our local MRC chapter here in Denton to staff both a call center and run testing sites. Being part of this response has truly shown me the commitment and energy that MRC volunteers have.

One of the things we do right now is work in a call center at the Denton County Public Health offices screening phone calls that come in from concerned residents about the virus and getting them set up for testing sites that we also run twice a week. Even after thirteen weeks of doing this call center, MRC volunteers continually sign up even though it isn’t the most glamorous of jobs. When residents call in desperate to just get tested somehow, it is a blessing to be able to help them out and let them know that we’re there for them.

Another thing we do as volunteers is help run testing sites for COVID. These sites are parking lots where residents drive up and nurses swab their noses and send the samples off to a lab. MRC volunteers run traffic control or help with registration. Registration requires wearing layers of PPE including gowns, gloves, N95 masks, and more. Underneath the hot Texas sun with temperatures running up to 100 degrees, MRC volunteers alongside DCPH employees astound me with their resilience and it is this experience that has helped me meet so many interesting people. I have met volunteers that are retired/current medical professionals, military veterans, office workers, and so many more who each have so many fascinating stories because most of them have been working longer than I have been alive. Running these testing sites is also a grueling endeavor with some volunteers having to get up before the crack of dawn to help set up and run the sites, but we do it happily with a smile on our faces.

Through the MRC I have been able to help out on the very frontlines of this pandemic. Whether it is talking firsthand with potential positive patients or helping to register them while sweating through my clothes and PPE at the testing sites, all of it has deepened my interest in public health and shaped my desire to work in the medical field. As a sophomore majoring in neuroscience at UT Dallas, the MRC has afforded me an opportunity to get experience at the frontlines of this pandemic. It really is an amazing group of people with great leaders that really bring out the best in us. I hope this article inspires you to find your local MRC chapter because even though many of us can’t help the big problems facing the world, we can make an impact in the smaller ones facing our community.

I’d like to thank Seth Roberts who is the MRC coordinator for Denton County for his impeccable leadership in doing such an important job alongside all the volunteers and DCPH employees who help keep us safe and healthy every single day.

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