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A Personal Quest with a Two-Fold Mission: Or, Why I Joined the Medical Reserve Corps

By Amy Knehans
Pharmacy/Health Sciences Librarian
Edwin H. Mookini Library
University of Hawai’i at Hilo
knehans@hawaii.edu

I moved to Hilo, Hawaii, in 2005. Hilo is located on the east side (windward) of Hawaii Island, also known as the “Big Island“. The town overlooks Hilo Bay and is surrounded by two volcanoes, Mauna Loa, considered active, and Mauna Kea, dormant. Disasters are not unknown in this area. A large tsunami in 1960 devastated much of the island. We had an earthquake of 6.7 in 2006.

Amy Knehans

The Hawaiian community is truly an “island community” abundant in the Spirit of Aloha. It is a community that sits alone in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is a community that has to be self sufficient in a time of crisis. And, when a crisis occurs, I want to be on the forefront to keep informed and offer my services to help if at all possible.

It has been an aspiration of mine to be a part of medical missions. I am also passionate about outreach, specifically outreach to the community and the many nontraditional ways of doing it. Because I was new to the area I didn’t know anyone. Fortunately, volunteering is a great way to get to know people and organizations. I decided to volunteer for a medical organization, one that shares my interests. I found the Hawaii Medical Reserves Corps (HMRC). Joining HMRC meets one of my missions — providing community service.

Joining HMRC helps me meet my second mission — improving health professionals access to information. HMRC organization provides a great opportunity to network with colleagues in addition to participating in volunteer activities to improve the health and safety of the community. Hawaii Island MRC is organized by the Hawaii State Department of Health and operated by the Hawaii District Health Office in cooperation with Healthcare Association of Hawaii, University of Hawaii, Hawaii State Civil Defense, and Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Members of the HMRC consist of Physicians, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Pharmacists, Dentists, Veterinarians, Mental Health Professionals, EMS Professionals and others. As a librarian, these are people we want to provide with the best health information.

According to the Medical Reserve Corps website,

“The Medical Reserves Corps (MRC) is dedicated to establishing teams of local volunteer medical and public health professionals to contribute their skills and expertise throughout the year as well as during times of community need.”

MRC’s are located all over the Country; there is likely one in your community. Members go to quarterly training sessions to improve their knowledge of disaster preparedness and response.

As a member of the HMRC, I have created ways to reach out to these folks and provide them with information from NLM. I joined the Disaster Information Outreach by Librarians listserv, and I am able to quickly pass on new informational links to people at the Hawaii State Department of Health. By joining the MRC, I have had many more opportunities to promote the importance of quality health information. I think the training sessions are a great marketing opportunity. I have begun the process of collecting information about NLM Disaster Preparedness and Response resources to make brochures to bring to the meetings. I am also proposing a session on NLM resources as one of the quarterly HMRC training sessions.

I also believe that outreach is not limited to formal meetings – far from it! Outreach takes place walking in the park with a “MLA” cap, while paddling a canoe, and while on an airplane – especially Hilo to Honolulu, since Hilo has so few doctors that people must go to Honolulu for care. Here in Hawaii it is called “talk story”. Talking to people in your own community and letting them know what you do sparks a lot of interest in what a medical librarian has to offer.

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