A vital link in health care

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Considering how easy it is to think of Suffolk as a sleepy little town on the outskirts of all the hustle and bustle of Hampton Roads, it’s sometimes almost surprising how blessed the city’s residents are with state-of-the-art medical facilities and heath care providers.

With one full-service hospital, as well as emergency facilities operated by two of the biggest health care networks in Virginia and a growing cadre of public, private and nonprofit medical providers, Suffolk has health care facilities to meet nearly every need. The offerings here are far more than most communities this size could expect.

But the medical community serving Suffolk and Western Tidewater is even broader and more diverse than would be evident to most folks not directly involved in the health care industry here. And a network of medical professionals volunteering their time to improve public safety and health has been honored recently for its efforts in that regard.

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The Western Tidewater Medical Reserve Corps and some of its volunteers were recognized as Rural Health Champions by the Virginia State Office of Rural Health, within the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.

Those recognized were Francisco “Frank” Jusino, who led the unit’s involvement in the Suffolk Peanut Festival and the Isle of Wight County Fair; Reba Clayton, a nursing professional who is one of the longest serving volunteers; Amy Wagner, a registered nurse who instructs CPR, AED and first aid courses for volunteers and community members; and Kathy Birdsong, who has participated in 46 separate events and contributed more than 227 hours of volunteer services. The corps as a whole also received recognition.

The corps works with the health department to promote health initiatives and to prepare for and, as needed, respond to public health emergencies. Fortunately, Suffolk has had no such emergency since the organization was founded, but a network of nearly 200 volunteers nevertheless stands ready to respond.

The corps volunteers at large public events such as festivals, fairs and more. It visits health fairs and National Night Out events to spread health information, conducted first aid at several rest stops during the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure and had more than a dozen volunteers at the Mission of Mercy free dental clinic. Volunteers with the corps have skills in both medical and non-medical professions. Medical professionals include doctors, nurses, dentists, nurse practitioners, behavioral health and substance abuse counselors, massage therapists and more.

Congratulations to the members of the Western Tidewater Medical Reserve Corps for their recent awards. The volunteers and the organization they support are a vital, if largely unknown, part of Suffolk’s vibrant health care community.