Macon County Chronicle

Free Health Care May 3rd & 4th

Free Health Care May 3rd & 4th

Remote Area Medical (RAM) Volunteer Corps, a non-profit, volunteer airborne relief corps that provides free health, dental, veterinary and eye care to people in remote areas of the U.S., will be hosting a no-cost healthcare expedition at Macon County Junior High School on Saturday, May 3rd, and Sunday, May 4th. 

Open to anyone who is in need of free health care services, volunteer doctors and nurses from across the country will be offering their time and assistance to everyone who attends the event.

Free Vision Services offered will include basic eye screenings, glaucoma screenings, refracting and eye exams, and if a patient is found to need eyeglasses, a pair will be provided to them if possible.

Volunteer ophthalmologists or optometrists will be on site to perform all eye exams and to determine if there are eye conditions or diseases that need further attention, and if a serious or threatening condition is found, the patient will be made aware of it and will be referred for follow-up care with a local doctor.

The RAM mobile optical lab is capable of supplying most eyeglass prescriptions and services will be provided at the expedition with volunteers operating the equipment and assembling the glasses. When operating at capacity, the lab has turned out over 300 pair of glasses in one day.

Lenses are a mix of donated and purchased lenses and frames are all donated, offering a broad spectrum of styles.

Free Dental Care Services offered will include emergency extractions, restorations, cleanings and fluoride treatments. Dental care is one of the core services of RAM expeditions and has provided relief to thousands of patients over the years.

Free Medical Services offered are usually limited to routine medical screenings, such as Pap smears and mammograms. This is because other medical services are really not effective with only one visit with a doctor. (Since the expedition has been put together in such short notice, veterinary services will not be offered at the Macon County event.)

The RAM organization, which was previously showcased in a March episode of 60 Minutes, was founded by Stan Brock, who spent 15 years in the Amazon Rain Forest witnessing the pain and suffering of many Wapishana Indians, who were isolated from medical care, and the near devastation of whole tribes by what were only simple or minor illnesses.

After years of planning and research, Brock developed a network of men and women (volunteer doctors, nurses, technicians and veterinarians) who would make up RAM’s relief force, going on expeditions at their own expense to treat hundreds of patients a day under some of the worst conditions.

Since the founding of RAM, volunteers have provided general medical, surgical, eye, dental and veterinary care to tens of thousands of people and animals, with 60 percent of the expeditions serving rural America, and on March 3, 2004 the Senate at the state capitol in Nashville passed a resolution honoring Remote Area Medical for its “compassion and dedication to providing medical care.”

The RAM organization is a publicly supported, all-volunteer, charitable organization and medical supplies, medicines, facilities and vehicles are all donated.

To date, RAM has had over 20,000 volunteers participate in its expeditions and activities and has conducted over 530 expeditions in the US, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, East Africa, India, Nepal, and others.

As of March 2005, RAM has encountered a total of 248,672 patients, has donated a value of $19,370,291 in free health care, has given away 54,350 pair of eyeglasses, has extracted 73,406 teeth and has cared for 59,851 animals.

Equipped with several aircrafts (a DC-3, Cessna 206 and Beech 18) to deliver supplies and people whenever needed, a mobile optical lab, a mobile clinic trailer, equipment and supplies to operate 12 dental stations complete with portable chairs, drill/suction setup and hand tools, RAM also owns a collection of trucks and trailers.

Based out of Knoxville, RAM is headquartered in an old schoolhouse, giving the organization ample room to shelter and organize donated supplies.

Asking for nothing except lodging for out-of-town volunteers, the process for a county, such as Macon, to host a RAM expedition is simple.

Usually led by a health council or other local organizations, the host community lines up all logistics, recruiting local volunteers and RAM arrives at the expedition site the day before it is scheduled, allowing volunteers enough time for set-up.

RAM representatives will be attending the next Macon County Health Council meeting on Tuesday, April 15, to discuss local volunteers and will be arriving in Macon County on Friday, May 2, at the junior high school when classes let out to begin set-up procedures.

RAM volunteers will be asked to arrive at 5 a.m. on Saturday, May 3, and patients will be seen beginning at 6:30 a.m. until the last one is served. Local volunteers will be relieved before noon each day.

RAM is expecting between 800 and 1,000 patients during its visit and welcomes anyone who is interested in receiving free health care.

The Lafayette Lions Club and Tennessee State Guard have been discussed as possible candidates for parking and security and both the county and city mayors are asking for donations of snacks or bottled drinks for patients standing in line.

After visiting Macon County to discuss RAM’s upcoming expedition, RAM Tennessee State Director Ron Brewer believes the organization will be able to assist many residents in need of their services.

“We got a call from someone in the area shortly after the tornadoes came in and we decided to hold off on the expedition until some time had passed and people had started getting back on their feet,” he said. “In driving around, Macon County is the typical kind of county we go into. I foresee that we’ll be able to draw several clients from the area because there’s an existing need with the economy the way it is today. I can see everyone having the need who has been hit hard by the slump of the economy.”

Macon County Mayor Shelvy Linville became aware of the RAM organization while watching the 60 Minutes episode in which it was featured.

“It’s a service that people in this area are in need of,” he said. “I think, based on the 60 Minutes program and talking to RAM representatives, that this event will be very beneficial to people in this area.”

For more information about RAM or how to become a volunteer visit or contact Ron Brewer at (865) 579-1530.