The idea for a national volunteer corps emerged out of the tragic events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Thousands of medical and public health professionals, eager to volunteer in support of emergency relief activities, found that there was no organized approach to channel their efforts. Local responders were overwhelmed and did not have a way to identify or manage these spontaneous volunteers. Many highly skilled people were turned away. Americans’ desire to lend a hand that day and in the months that followed revealed the need for a network to provide the infrastructure to organize and train individuals who wanted to volunteer their time and skills to benefit their community.
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) came directly out of this need. In the 2002 State of the Union Address, President Bush asked all Americans to volunteer for their community, and by July 2002, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson officially had launched the MRC. The MRC offered a way to train and track medical professionals to serve in the event of another man-made or natural disaster and strengthen local public health. Congress allocated funds to establish the MRC Program Office (now DCVMRC) in the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General to initiate an MRC demonstration project and to provide national technical assistance to MRC units around the country. Since the MRC began, units have formed in every state, and tens of thousands of individuals have signed up to volunteer. Local leaders nationwide also have worked diligently and creatively to establish the foundation of community support and planning necessary for their units to function effectively.