Spring 2023

Happy Spring!!  To me, spring symbolizes growth, and growth provides opportunity.  Opportunity to learn, opportunity to change, opportunity to reinvent and opportunity to re-engage.  As I thought about what to share in my first Coordinator’s Update, I thought about growth, opportunity, and change and what that means to me and to the MRC program.  In this update I’d like to share a bit about my story as well as my vision for the MRC in 2023.

If you’ve looked at my bio on the HERO website, you will see that I have been working in public health for over 20 years.  As a student here at the University of Minnesota, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, and was on the path to medical school.  As I looked at courses, I saw something called “public health” (I had never heard of it!) and thought that since it had the word “health” it could be something I was interested in. I took a course by Dr. Jim Rothenberger, then another, and realized that public health was what I wanted to pursue as a career.  At that time, in order to incorporate public health into my course of study, I had to design my own major.  After graduation I went on to get my Master’s in Public Health from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), in Community Health Sciences with a sub-concentration in Epidemiology. 

I returned to Minnesota, and was hired as a Community Health Worker in the Immunization Program at Hennepin County Public Health.  At the time, my unit was responsible for planning for and administering smallpox vaccinations to healthcare workers following the events of 9/11.  We were also charged with planning for the mass distribution and dispensing of antibiotics should there be a bioterrorism attack.  From there, I began to work with medical clinics in Hennepin County on emergency plans for their facilities.  Seeing a gap in their emergency preparedness and response capabilities, Park Nicollet Health Services invited me to be their Emergency Manager.  I spent five years there, developing policies, procedures, and plans, doing training and exercises, developing partnerships, and managing healthcare-related emergencies.  During my time there I led responses to the I-35W bridge collapse (2007) and the H1N1 influenza pandemic (2009).  In 2011 I returned to Hennepin County, this time to the Emergency Preparedness Unit, where I further developed skills in incident management, plan development, training and exercises, grant management, and emergency response.  I was involved in many incident responses including: measles outbreak in the Somali community, Hiawatha Homeless Encampment, Superbowl, Drake (shelter) Hotel Fire, X Games, and most recently, COVID-19.

In December 2021 I left Hennepin County and relocated with my family to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  We spent almost a year there before returning to Minnesota at the end of September, 2022.  It was truly life changing.

As I’m learning about the U of MN MRC program, reflecting on everything former MRC Coordinator, Kathy Berlin, taught me before her retirement, and accounting for my past experience, I have some ideas about where I’d like to focus our efforts this year:  

  • First, it’s very important to me to meet MRC members and establish working relationships.  I’d like to plan as many in-person events as possible to give me the opportunity to meet you all, in non-emergency situations.  

  • Second, I’d like to focus on recruitment of new members, especially in areas where we have fewer people, such as behavioral health, veterinary medicine, dentistry, and allied health.  HERO will be working on filming a recruitment video that highlights our good work as well as shows the opportunities available to MRC members.  We also want to recruit for our Strike Teams to ensure we have adequate capacity and capability when we need it. 

  • Third, I want to provide MRC members with access to training and exercises.  I am developing a Multi-year Training and Exercise Plan (MYTEP) that will be designed to offer training at all levels (beginner to advanced) as well as focused training for certain disciplines.  Once the MYTEP is completed, I will post it on our website and include it in the newsletter.

I want the MRC program to be driven by ideas and participation by its members, and to do that I need your input!  If you have thoughts about how we could do better, ideas of training or other opportunities you’d like to explore, or other ways you’d like to get involved, please share those with me.  I want you all to see your membership as valuable and appreciated, as well as build your interests and skills in emergency preparedness and response, while being respectful of your time.  It’s a delicate balance but I’m confident we can continue to learn from each other and increase our capacity to respond to health incidents on campus and in the community.

Finally, I’d be remiss to not recognize the awesome work of the U of MN MRC in both our Year in Review and Special report on COVID-19.  I hope you’ve all seen the two reports and feel a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment on what you contributed.

With gratitude,

Courtney Wetternach

Courtney Wetternach
Medical Reserve Corp Coordinator
[email protected]

For previous Coordinator's Update issues, please visit the Archive page.