Helping hands: Junior Medical Reserve Corps group brings dedicated teens into service

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

Oxford-Lafayette Allied Health students prepared for the best and the worst this year. The juniors and seniors became part of Mississippi’s first organized Junior Medical Reserve Corps. In addition to their studies focused on careers in health care, they picked up lessons in emergency preparedness and community service.
“It lets them see at an early age what volunteering is all about,” said Allied Health Instructor Sandi Allen, a registered nurse. “There’s more than just their job in health care.”
Medical Reserve Corps are organized across Mississippi and the nation to better equip communities for the disasters that will inevitably come, said Judy Warren, volunteer coordinator for the North Central Medical Reserve Corps based in Oxford.
“It’s not a question of if, but when,” Warren said.
When the worst happens, people come wanting to help, but it can be difficult when they don’t have the qualifications or tools. The medical reserve corps are designed to put those skills into place. Before the disaster, volunteers train and organize supplies so they are ready to respond in a disaster.
“We try to prevent a disaster within a disaster,” Warren said.
Other states have benefited from Junior Medical Reserve Corps, and Warren was able to secure a grant to allow her to start a corps here.
Natural fit
Becoming part of the Junior Medical Reserve Corps was a natural fit for the Allied Health class.
“Everyone in this class was already interested,” said Junior Allied Health student Courtney Britt.
With the competitive nature of many health care professional programs, participation in a program like the Junior Medical Reserve Corps can help demonstrate the students’ commitment to community service. But, it goes beyond resume building for the students.
“We saw what happened with Pine Flat when the tornado came through,” Britt said.
While the students are in high school, they wouldn’t provide any direct care as part of the medical reserve, but their Allied Health training prepares them to be very helpful in pulling supplies, helping with paperwork and aiding medical personnel, Warren said.
The students already were certified in CPR and first aid, two requirements of joining the medical reserve corps, but they’ve also taken a number of national certification tests.
“If we can train the juniors, they can build on those skill sets,” Warren said.
But the students haven’t waited for a disaster to put their new disaster preparedness expertise to work. In addition to the regular projects the Allied Health class undertakes, like teaching dental health to preschool students and nutrition to kindergartners, the students put together disaster kits and made posters and presentations about emergency preparedness to other high school students.
At student assemblies, they handed out decorated pillow cases with lists so students could put together their own personal disaster kits.
“A lot of the students we talked to didn’t have a kit,” Allen said.
This summer, the rising seniors will help teach about healthy nutrition and snacks as part of the summer day camp program that Oxford Parks and Recreation hosts.
Beyond campus
This spring, the junior medical reserve corps helped the State Medical Assistance Team and North Central Medical Reserve Corps restock the mobile hospital, which is based in Oxford.
“We’ve got some really great kids that are working really hard,” Warren said.
When they turn 18, they automatically become a full member of the reserve corps. They are part of the unit in Oxford or they can volunteer with units close to colleges around the state.
“They can slot in once they get there with the certification and training available online,” Warren said.
michaela.morris@journalinc.com

Want to Know More?
THERE ARE MEDICAL RESERVE CORPS based in Oxford, Tupelo, Jackson and Gulfport. Find out about Medical Reserve Corps and contact local units at www.medicalreservecorps.gov.