In this April 2012 file photo, Stephanie Byrd wears a device that monitors eye movement during a RAM event at Bristol Motor Speedway.
WISE — Volunteers are busy with final preparations for the annual Remote Area Medical (RAM) Health Exposition at the Wise County Fairgrounds to be held July 19-21.
Founded by Stan Brock and operated out of Knoxville, RAM brings together health professionals and a host of other volunteers to provide free eye, dental and medical services to the uninsured, underinsured, unemployed and all who cannot afford those services otherwise.
RAM strives to serve around the world. This year’s event in Wise County will be the 700th worldwide for Brock’s RAM organization.
Southwest Virginia’s Health Wagon, a non-profit organization that seeks to provide as many free health care services as possible to the region, partnered with Brock and RAM 14 years ago to stage what has become the largest such event in the nation.
Health Wagon Executive Director Teresa Gardner on Monday said the final stretch toward this year’s RAM, the 14th annual event in Wise County, is under way.
“I think things are going really good so far. Pretty much at this point we’re good on volunteers. We still need a cardiologist and a gastroenterologist, and we’re still hopeful. Other than that we’re pretty much good to go on (July 19-21),” she said.
“We’re getting lots of emails and phone calls coming in. It’s shaping up. We will start to work on the fairgrounds soon to start getting things ready out there, our patient reception area, medical areas, and get our mobile units set up and everything like that. We will start really getting at it out there on Monday, but we’re getting a few things going already.”
The Wise County RAM’s biggest remaining need is, as usual, financial. And organizers will always welcome donations of useful items like individually wrapped snacks, hand sanitizers, bathroom tissue, paper towels and the like.
“It costs about $50,000 to put on this event, so we could probably still use some financial donations. But we could always use some of the other items like I’ve mentioned too,” Gardner said.
Last year 1,379 volunteers gave their time and professional expertise to serve 2,442 patients during the annual Wise County RAM. There were 8,309 procedures performed during that three-day free health care spree providing well over $1.95 million in total value of services.
Those services last year included 713 medical, 994 vision, 1,306 dental, 386 women’s health and 127 mammograms. Also, 929 pairs of eyeglasses were made.
Since 2000 the Wise County RAM has provided 1,794 mammograms, 36,855 general medicine procedures, 10,058 eye exams (with glasses), and 15,263 adult dentistry procedures along with 1,178 child dental procedures. There have been 68,701 total patients in all categories, not to mention 42,737 tooth extractions during that time span.
Registration begins at 6 a.m. daily, and patients are seen on a first come, first served basis with the exception of some selected appointments like dentures.
If transportation is needed, residents of Norton and Wise, Lee and Scott counties can call Mountain Empire Older Citizens Inc.’s Transportation Dept. at 1-888-877-6748. Dickenson, Russell, Tazewell and Buchanan County residents may call Four County Transit at 1-888-656-2272. Immediate notice is required to arrange these transportation services.
All patients must bring all prescription medication/information with them. Bagged lunches and water will be provided.
Folks are also encouraged to bring sunscreen and an umbrella. RAM is a smoke free event, and no pets are permitted, only service animals such as guide dogs for the visually impaired.