Mid-Year Update: January Through June 2012

The first six months of the year were among our most productive ever! Here's a recap of activities, with links to each item below:

Hospital Talks Presentations at LGH and Emerson
Let's Move! Innovations in keeping kids fit
CPR and "Million Hearts" Promoting heart-healthy lifestyles
Shelter Training CNA exercise and MMS seminar
Conferences Integrated Summit and VT Symposium
Training Day See article for our 5th annual event
Other Cultural seminar, recruitment, and more

HOSPITAL TALKS - Our essential partnerships include local health care facilities. Not only do we have similiar goals in promoting public health, we also need to interact seamlessly when providing patient care in times of disaster.

Our first outreach this year was to Lowell General Hospital. The visit was promoted in advance through the employee newsletter, which raised further awareness of the MRC program.

Volunteers from our unit were on hand to provide testimonials about their service through the MRC, encouraging their colleagues to sign up. New members received logo bags as a thank-you gift.

We took a similar approach with Emerson Hospital in Concord the next month. Many of the employees live in communities across the Upper Merrimack Valley, so we staffed a display table outside the busy cafeteria at lunchtime and discussed the unit. Even better, we were invited to return later and offer formal presentations.

LET'S MOVE! - Our volunteers not only continued to support this national campaign, we also added five exciting new approaches this season.

1. Interactive Jump Rope Event: Five-time world jump rope champion and former Cirque de Soleil artist Rene Bibaud encouraged children to practice their jump rope techniques. The family-friendly evening resulted from the collaboration with Healthy Kids Westford, Lowell General Hospital, and Westford Public Schools, supported by MRC volunteers.

Rene Bibaud demonstrated the 'return rope' technique, and encouraged children to take turns
practicing their 'pencil' form in double-dutch jumping, set to lively rock music.
While children learned how to maintain a good 'pretzel' position for their next stint with the rope, volunteers staffed an information booth for the grown-ups. Parents brought home information on nutrition, exercise, and family fitness.
Proper form includes good arm placement and fluid movements. To help young jumpers stay hydrated after their energetic workout, they left with color-changing 'Let's Move!' water bottles.

2. WalkBoston with the Surgeon General: MRC members from across Massachusetts joined U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin for a walk through metropolitan Boston. A number of scheduled stops along the way provided updates on urban development and efforts to build healthier communities. The Surgeon General gave a talk at the end about reasons for keeping fit, urging participants to 'find the fun' in their choice of activities.

MRC leaders and volunteers from the Bay State gathered to support the annual WalkBoston event, in whatever capacity they could be helpful: guiding walkers, providing information, or simply joining the multitudes who came to walk on an unseasonably warm afternoon.
Sponsors of the program carried signage to guide the way. The program encourages better health, a cleaner environment, and vibrant communities.
Community members and families of all ages were encouraged to join in the fun! Dr. Benjamin was pleased to answer questions from the youngest participants.

3. Fitness Dancing: Our unit debuted a dance activity at the Billerica Health and Wellness Fair. Having been selected for a 'stage' activity as well as an information booth, our new MRC intern had compiled a CD of tunes to get kids moving. Some of the songs provided optional steps to learn, while others simply encouraged kids to have fun.

Children were eager to learn the latest dance steps through the 'Lets' Move!' activity.
MRC volunteers promoted 'Let's Move!' at the display table as well, sharing tips on nutrition and fitness. The group continued to raise awareness of the MRC and general public health, while signing up new members. Welcome to the UMV MRC!


4. Bike Rodeo: In our first collaboration of its kind with Tewksbury police and schools, volunteers from our unit supported the town's "Summer Safety" kickoff. One of our medical members staffed the 'brain injury prevention' table, urging the use of helmets and the need to avoid head injuries. Other volunteers supported checkpoints on the course where children were reminded to look both ways, and to be on the lookout for cars backing up that might not see them coming.

The MRC joined sponsors such as AAA to encourage bike safety for kids on the roadways.
Education at the brain-injury table
The "look both ways" checkpoint
Value of a well-fitting helmet

5. Exercise Games: A series of fairs allowed volunteers to expand on activities that were successful in previous 'Let's Move!' outings: sit-up and push-up challenges, hula hoops, and ring-toss games. In addition, the displays offered nutritional information from the national campaign's web site, such as "Balance My Plate."

Ring-toss, ball-catch, hula hoops, and other games kept kids happily active in the 'Children's Fitness' area of the annual Chelmsford Health and Wellness Fair. They received certificates and prizes for taking on the sit-up/push-up challenge, and remained for face-painting and hand designs, offered by MRC volunteers.
MRC nurses provided blood pressure screening and tips on heart-healthy living. The team leader stopped by the nutrition table, as healthful eating is a key component of the 'Let's Move!' campaign.

CPR AND 'MILLION HEARTS' - Not only does our unit offer CPR classes to volunteers and municipal response partners throughout the year. We also considered this year's training as an ideal way to promote the new 'Million Hearts' initiative. Literature about 'Million Hearts' was presented at every class, taught by UMV MRC instructors.

Instructors from our unit volunteered their skills to recertify members of the Highway Department in Heartsaver CPR/AED, including the resuscitation
of infants and children.
Members who are
healthcare providers
kept their skills sharp by reviewing and practicing advanced CPR/AED techniques.
Chief Hazel of the Tewksbury Fire Department hosted a Healthcare Providers CPR class at the South Street station. He also stopped by
to welcome UMV MRC
medical volunteers and
thank them for services
that the unit provides
in his community.
Employees of the
Council on Aging and
the Water Department
learned the finer points of applying a face mask when preparing to perform
rescue breathing.

SHELTER TRAINING - Another 'first' for our unit this season was the invitation to provide a sheltering exercise to C.N.A. (Certified Nursing Assistant) students at the Greater Lowell Technical High School.

CNA students applied the concepts from a classroom introduction to the hands-on simulation of patient intake and triage in an emergency shelter. They followed basic Incident Command System protocols and provided patient care, under the watchful eyes of their instructors at Greater Lowell Technical High School.

About a dozen members represented our unit at seminars held in June at the Massachusetts Medical Society headquarters in Waltham, MA. MRCs from across the state participated in a 'facilitated discussion' in the afternoon, to share their experiences from supporting emergency shelters over the past year. Significant events included the June 1, 2011 tornado disaster that leveled communities across Western MA, and the October storm that knocked out power north of Boston. The evening seminar consisted of presentations and a panel discussion from leaders in public health and disaster response.

Each panelist offered a perspective on the best ways of 'Providing Medical Care in an Emergency Shelter Setting,' before the question-and-answer segment of the forum at MMS headquarters. The capacity crowd included MRC leaders and volunteers from across the Bay State.

CONFERENCES - Your staff participated in two disaster preparedness forums this season.

NATIONAL SUMMIT: A wide range of emergency response partners and MRC leaders from across the U.S. gathered in May for the annual Integrated Summit. UMV MRC staff members had offered to collect photos from our counterparts across the country, and combined them into a special 10th anniversary slide show which was displayed at lunchtime on the first full day of the conference.

National MRC Program Director Rob Tosatto introduces two officers from his staff on the DCVMRC (Division of Civilian Volunteers for the Medical Reserve Corps) in a panel discussion.

Over lunch on the opening day
of the conference, attendees watched the MRC 10th anniversary slide show
that the UMV MRC
Director and Coordinator
had offered to produce. See separate story for details.
Each of the ten MRC regions from across the U.S. provided signage
to highlight their accomplishments over the past year.
Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak cited the value of MRC units in promoting public health, and shared lessons learned.
Workshops allowed participants to practice clinical skills such as response in austere enviroments.
Honoring the memory of the late MRC leader Elizabeth Fitch, attendees gathered at dawn before the last day of the conference to join in a 'Let's Move!' activity: a 3.2 mile (5K) fun-run. MRC logo water bottles were donated by NACCHO to keep participants hydrated.

VT PREPAREDNESS: Your UMV MRC Director and Coordinator were invited to give presentations at the 5th annual 'Vermont Healthcare Preparedness Conference' in mid-June. This exchange allowed medical and emergency response professionals from various backgrounds to share their knowledge with counterparts in related fields, and return with insights about alternative approaches to disaster response.

UMV MRC Coordinator presented 'Forging Productive Partnerships.'
Dr. Kate McCarthy-Barnett discussed functional shelter needs.
UMV MRC Director conducted a workshop for new MRC leaders.

OTHER - We are grateful to speakers from the Lowell Community Health Center who reprised earlier presentations to our unit about 'Providing Culturally Appropriate Care,' at a seminar held at the Chelmsford Police Training Center in June. We've also offered more 'Drop-In Days' that encourage members to join or brush up on their knowledge of the MRC. See the separate article for a recap of our 5th Training Day, which is a highlight of our programming each year.

LCHC staff explained Cultural Awareness concepts
at the June 2011 Training Day.
Other staff members welcomed the MRC at a 'site visit' to the Metta Center that September.

Recruitment efforts included targeted mass-mailings to pharmacists and EMTs, and literature provided at a regional dental conference. We also submitted several articles for newspaper publication, and always encourage our volunteers to spread the word about our activities.

A long-time advocate of MRCs retired this season. Unit leaders from across the state congratulated Admiral Mike Milner for his many years of professionalism. Milner's last assignment for the U.S. Public Health Service was based in Boston, where he played a key role in programs across New England.

U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin with staff, at Admiral Milner's retirement event. Capt. Rob Tosatto, Director of the National MRC Program, is second from left.
Your Director and Coordinator with Dr. Regina Benjamin and Admiral Michael Milner.

IWe are always seeking to engage our members effectively as we strive to keep area residents safe and healthy. Our UMV MRC Advisory Council continues to suggest activities that match MRC offerings with community needs. UMV MRC leaders participate in statewide meetings and conference calls, and monitor the national MRC e-mail distributions to exchange best practices. Stay tuned for initiatives coming this fall. Meanwhile, enjoy the summer!

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