Do you or someone you know need free medical, dental or vision care? Mark your calendar for May 17-19 for the fourth annual RAM Smyth County clinic at Mountain Empire Airport.
The clinic has helped thousands over the past three years in this area and hundreds of thousands worldwide. Organizers do it with volunteers – medical personnel from near and far, and people just like you who help with time and money.
The call is out for volunteers willing to help with this year’s clinic, especially strong, young people to help with set-up, take-down and trash detail. Those collecting trash get to ride around in a Kubota as they empty barrels.
The first three clinics were held on the first weekend in May, but this year’s event has been moved to the third weekend in hopes of warmer weather and less conflict with student schedules. Many of the volunteers are medical students looking for hands-on experience or local students who can come out on a weekend to help.
Letters seeking support from donors are expected to be sent out next week. Those wishing to donate money can send checks to RAM Smyth County, P.O. Box 705, Marion, VA 24354.
Grants have been received each year from the Carl and Frances Vaught Charitable Foundation and this year and last from the Williams-Berry Foundation. Other grants are being sought by the RAM Smyth County planning committee.
A hope this year is to be able to provide 50 or more hearing aids to those who need them.
The Remote Area Medical clinic program was established by Stan Brock in 1985 after a personal injury in South America and the difficulty in finding care. Brock founded RAM to address the pain and suffering caused by the lack of healthcare in impoverished, underserved and isolated areas and then brought the program to the United States to address the health concerns of impoverished Americans.
Brock, 82, visited RAM Smyth County in May 2018. He died in August.
“Because of his vision and compassion RAM Clinics have become an important avenue for dental, vision and medical care for thousands in communities throughout the world,” said the Rev. Harry Howe, coordinator for RAM Smyth County, last year. “We are blessed to be a part of this wonderful program and strive to live the shadows of his legacy as we serve the medical needs of those who come to our clinic. Stan's work continues as we plan and hold our next clinic in May of 2019.”
Brock flew into the airport along with a BBC film crew doing a documentary on the program. The video called Toothless and Uninsured in Virginia is on YouTube.
The 2018 RAM Smyth County clinic served over 764 patients and as many or more are expected this year. They come from Smyth and many surrounding counties, from throughout Virginia and from other states.
Over 500 volunteers provided free services in dental, vision, hearing and medical care valued at approximately $390,010 or about $510 per patient.
Volunteer providers come from surrounding counties and far away states. Local oral surgeon Dr. Neil Hollyfield, who coordinates the dental services for the clinic, said dental students and residents come all the way from New York because they can get real experience caring for the Remote Area Medical clinic patients.
“The backbone of the program is the students,” Hollyfield said. “They need patients. We put patients with students. They get real hands-on experience. We want to do this more often. Even with the clinic in Saltville and other places there is not enough clinical experience in school.”
The benefits of the RAM clinic are to the providers as well as the patients, Hollyfield said.
The stories Hollyfield and the other volunteer dental care providers hear from their patients are heartbreaking and inspiring. The care they receive makes a huge difference in their lives, he said, by eliminating pain and restoring smiles.
Smyth County’s clinic is unique in that patients served here can seek follow-up care at free health care clinics in Marion and Wytheville that partner with RAM Smyth County.
For more information or to sign up as a volunteer, click on RAM USA and go to the RAM Smyth County tab under clinics.