Comprised of medical and public health professionals serving alongside interested non-medical community members, the Virginia Beach Medical Reserve Corps (VBMRC) shares skills, expertise, and time to support public health initiatives and respond to health emergencies throughout Virginia Beach. Established in 2002, the VBMRC is organized locally through the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health to improve the health and safety of its community. More than doubling in size during the pandemic to support COVID-19 efforts for the city, the VBMRC unit of 1,817 general support and healthcare professional volunteers is an essential component of emergency efforts for the city of Virginia Beach. They recognize that continuing to offer health service events is crucial to reaching as many people as possible and thousands of Virginia Beach citizens benefit each year.
Between July 2022 and June 2023, 254 VBMRC volunteers contributed a total of 4,477 service hours during 321 different events, from vaccine clinics for COVID-19, Mpox, and the flu, to back-to-school events to offer children physicals and vaccines for the upcoming school year. VBMRC also supported health services events for incoming Afghan and Ukrainian refugees and they often assist at local marathons to help with first aid and water distribution. They also helped staff the city’s Recovery Center in the aftermath of the tornado earlier this year, saving Virginia Beach more than $130,000 through their combined service in 2022-2023.
The VBMRC’s enthusiasm and knowledge of vaccination clinic logistics and community events have made possible long-running partnerships with churches, public schools, cultural centers, universities, and marginalized communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community. “Members of our congregation as well as members of the community commented numerous times about how knowledgeable and committed the [VBMRC] team is,” recalls Elder Michael Rogers of Kingdom Cathedral, where numerous VBMRC vaccine clinics took place. Indeed, nominator Bob Engle says, “In schools and in the community, the VBMRC has become synonymous with professionalism and efficiency.”
VBMRC volunteers even helped pioneer a unique clinic design element early in the pandemic — a separate ‘pharmacy’ area that drew vaccines to be given by volunteer vaccinators — which increased efficiency and was adopted in other areas of the state. Their flexibility and skill level have also allowed for targeted underserved populations to be served directly through programs like the homebound vaccination program. As a result, the unit was a regional leader in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for the state, garnering national recognition from the Medical Reserve Corps Network in 2022 and receiving their National Community Preparedness and Resilience Recognition Award.