Massachusetts Presents at 2004 National Conference

The exhibit area allowed units such as this one from DeKalb County to discuss their programs

Representatives of MRCs from around the nation packed the second annual MRC conference, which took place July 7 to 9 in Baltimore, Maryland. When the first conference was held in Chicago last year, the audience consisted of 50 MRC leaders from 40 units. As a testimony to the explosive growth of the program, this year there were 350 attendees from nearly 200 units!

The conference offered nonstop coverage of key issues - from organizational structures, to partnerships with government agencies and the private sector, to liability and credentialing. Small group sessions allowed members of the ten MRC regions to hone in on issues unique to their sections of the country.

Nancy Burns (left); Commander Rob Tosatto, MRC Program Director; and Cheryl Bushnell take a break between sessions

Speakers from Massachusetts made a strong showing. The Upper Merrimack Valley is in Region I (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) which Captain Mike Milner oversees from his Boston office. The MRC representative for Massachusetts is Cheryl Bushnell, who co-founded the Bay State's first unit in Dennis, MA in 2003. As Milner conducted the Region I session and Bushnell offered ideas for MA, Nancy Burns (Coordinator of the UMV MRC) agreed to invite members of Region I to a meeting on September 9, to follow a half-day session that had been planned for MA units.

One of the plenary session attendees raises a question at the microphone


Bushnell and Burns also gave presentations during the breakout sessions, where attendees had been pre-assigned into groups of 70 for five concurrent talks. As part of the Volunteer Relations breakouts, Burns led a discussion called "Spread the Word - Raising Excitement About Your MRC." Following the half-hour presentation, the group shared insights on promoting their units and retaining members.


During the Public Health Initiatives breakouts, Bushnell explained how the Cape Cod unit developed "A Community Project of the Dennis Church of the Nazarene." She explained that the keys to success included networking and setting clear objectives, plus addressing liability issues from the outset.

Lieutenant Commander April Kidd, MRC Program Officer, at the national MRC display


The three-day conference generated an overwhelming array of useful information, from start to finish. The opening address by the U.S. Surgeon General, Richard Carmona, was peppered with applause as he listed ways in which the MRC "shows the commitment of the American people to serve."


Conference organizer Mary Beth Albright (left) smiles as her assistant Grace Middleton and all 350 attendees sing"'Happy Birthday"


Carmona also drew cheers as he emphasized prevention as a top priority for public health. "Over 440,000 people in the U.S. each year are dying from tobacco-related illness, and nearly that many from obesity," said Carmona. He urged that MRCs can play a key role not only in mitigating disasters, but also in supporting programs that improve health and safety in their communities.

Upper Merrimack Valley Medical Reserve Corp, 55 Main Street, Westford, MA 01886