POCATELLO — The Southeastern District Health Department hosted the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Volunteer Annual Meeting to acknowledge National Preparedness Month.
The keynote speaker for the meeting was Dr. Ralph Heckard. Heckard, a Blackfoot primary care physician, spent two weeks providing healthcare in Haiti following a devastating earthquake on Jan. 12. He has since been to Haiti eight additional times to provide medical care.
Heckard shared his experiences in Haiti and the lessons he and his team learned while serving in a devastated Third World country with limited supplies and resources.
Heckard's message coincided with the mission of the Southeast Idaho Medical Reserve Corps, which is to provide local communities with volunteers willing to offer their time, knowledge, and skills to address their community's public health needs and to support emergency personnel during a large-scale emergency.
Heckard and his team were among the first to arrive in Haiti following the devastating earthquake. He traveled with Haitian-Americans who spoke Creole, which enabled them to connect with individuals in rural communities. They sent up a tent clinic in Leogane, a town outside Port-au-Prince, seeing more than 2,000 patients in the first month.
Their group encountered several issues including lack of supplies, transportation, identification and issues involving human trafficking. But their ability to integrate with the culture and language helped them develop trust with the local residents.
Heckard said humans are the number one asset to any community, and the more people with training and who are prepared, the lower the vulnerability is of a community when a disaster does strike.
Heckard said you can't assume a disaster won't happen in Eastern Idaho. Being prepared locally is the best defense in a disaster. The Southeastern District Health Department has a number of resources located on its website at www.sdhdidaho.org .
If you have questions about the Medical Reserve Corps program, please call Denise O'Farrell at 239-5208 or Michelle Butterfield at 239-5207.