UTHSC medical reserve unit receives $50,000 grant


San Antonio (Dec. 19, 2003) – The state’s first volunteer medical reserve unit, the Texas Medical Rangers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC), is getting a $50,000 federal grant to bolster its activities.

The grant from the Office of the Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was awarded to the UTHSC Center for Public Health Preparedness and Biomedical Research for the strengthening of the Texas Medical Rangers. The unit, sponsored by the Health Science Center, is part of the Texas State Guard Medical Reserve Corps. The UTHSC program is one of 167 recognized by the federal government and is a regional and statewide program, in contrast to most of the country’s volunteer medical reserve units, which are more local in scope.

The UTHSC is hosting the Texas Medical Rangers at the specific direction of Gov. Rick Perry. Unit members will train and be prepared to assist public health authorities in the event that a major natural disaster or man-induced disruption threatens public health in South Texas.

“The Medical Reserve Corps of the Texas State Guard is in its first year of development,” said Harold L. Timboe, M.D., M.P.H., associate vice president for administration at the UTHSC and director, Center for Public Health Preparedness and Biomedical Research. “We have become widely known among public health and emergency response officials throughout the state. They are very supportive of the concept and eager to see us grow so that they can include us as a significant contributor to their statewide disaster preparedness plans.”

The Texas Medical Rangers unit at the UTHSC has recruited more than 60 members. The unit includes about 20 physicians and dentists and 20 nurses. The remaining 20 Rangers are from other health professions and administrative/logistical backgrounds. The Rangers are taking online courses and attending other training opportunities each month.

“We will begin training sessions with the new Community Disaster Life Support and Basic Disaster Life Support curriculum, and selected members have participated in several drills and exercises in San Antonio and other cities in South Texas in this first year,” said Dr. Timboe, a family physician who is former commanding general of both Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “In the past month we have begun establishing regional units in other parts of Texas at health science university campuses. It is through linking these Medical Reserve Corps units that we believe we will be most valuable as a large volunteer organization for the people of Texas.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced 167 grants totaling more than $8 million to help community-based organizations develop local volunteer medical emergency and public health response capabilities.

“By strengthening communities’ response systems, we are improving the overall health care infrastructure of the nation,” Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona said in a prepared statement. “We know that in times of disaster the local community members will be the first to respond and the last to leave. We want to make sure that they have the resources, training and equipment they need to help out when help is needed.”

Community and regional health care providers and other individuals are invited to inquire about membership in the Texas Medical Rangers. The next information session is at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13, in room 209L of the UTHSC Medical School building, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive. For more information, call (210) 567-0302 or navigate to www.texasmedicalrangers.com.

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