Institute to train medical volunteers

Posted 5/23/24


It all began with a fire.

More specifically, a small brush fire in West Greenwich in 1986 near Brooke Lawrence’s childhood home. Following that, the town’s fire …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Institute to train medical volunteers


It all began with a fire.

More specifically, a small brush fire in West Greenwich in 1986 near Brooke Lawrence’s childhood home. Following that, the town’s fire chief recruited his parents as volunteer firefighters, helping spark a love for public safety.

Thirty-eight years later, Lawrence, alongside representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services and Gov. Dan McKee’s office, opened the Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps Training, Innovation and Leadership Institute (TILI) on Cowesett Avenue in West Warwick.

Before the building became TILI, it was a daycare. The facilities inside it, though- which include a “wet room” where test dummies can bleed out and an interactive studio to create an immersive environment for trainees- have certainly changed.

“If you want to do training on a fire scene, we can do that,” Lawrence said. “If you want to do a drowning at the beach in Charlestown, put the patient in the back of the Charlestown rescue, take them to South County Hospital, film the ambulance, film the critical care truck. Everybody along that continuum of care will be able to interact in that space and nobody has to leave the building.”

Other state-of-the-art technology for trainees to work with includes test dummies with artificial intelligence, who are able to speak and function as though they are having a medical emergency, simulating an experience with a real person as much as possible. Additionally, Lawrence said that they are pioneering the ability to 3-D print different kinds of wounds for trainees to deal with.

That testing is part of the process to keep trainees calm in a real-life situation.

“The whole philosophy behind this building is that it’s all about stress levels,” Lawrence said. “If you’re stressed out, it’s really going to impact you… [These dummies] are the best teaching tool in the world right now.”

Some of the equipment, according to National Medical Reserve Corps. Director Duston Ashton, is unique within all of the MRCs in New England.

Ashton said Rhode Island’s MRC program has been a positive example for the rest of the country to follow since it was first established in 2003.

“It has been leading the way in innovation over the last 20 years,” Ashton said. “You’ve shared successes, best practices, seeding the MRC network, which allowed them to grow. It comes as no surprise that the Rhode Island MRC is continuing to lead the way.”

Ashton said that the Rhode Island MRC received more than $2 million in MRC STTRONG grant funding from HHS in order to build TILI.

More than 500 different volunteers participated in an MRC activity in some form last year, Lawrence said. Lawrence said building a center to train volunteers become a top priority for him since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Lawrence said. “One of the things that we learned coming out of COVID was that we needed to do things differently, and that’s where this came from.”

According to Ashton, the country’s COVID response was helped greatly by MRCs throughout the country, who he estimated contributed “millions of hours of service.”

Throughout the pandemic, the MRC helped lead the state’s COVID response, with 2,000 volunteers working around-the-clock testing patients and vaccinating them once vaccines became available. The MRC vaccinated approximately 86,000 people and evaluated approximately 330,000 throughout the pandemic, according to Lawrence.

Currently, according to Lawrence, the MRC has slightly over 9,000 volunteers, with between 500 and 600 of that number “routinely engaged.”

With TILI now open, Lawrence believes Rhode Island emergency service volunteers will be more prepared to help the state and its people through whatever challenges they face, be they a small fire or a worldwide pandemic.

“We’re going to innovate, we’re going to uplift, and we’re going to build resilient communities,” Lawrence said.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here