Kingsport Times News Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Planning under way for RAM event scheduled for Lee County

May 31st, 2014 12:43 am by Wes Bunch

Planning under way for RAM event scheduled for Lee County

FLATWOODS — With Lee County's Remote Area Medical clinic a little more than 100 days away, representatives of the various stakeholders involved with the effort met Friday to begin planning for the event.

RAM President and founder Stan Brock, who flew into the Lee County Airport in Flatwoods just prior to the session, met with medical professionals, community leaders and local government officials for nearly two hours to begin organizing the free two-clinic scheduled to begin Sept. 13.

Brock said he was pleased by the large turnout at Friday's meeting.

"The response has been tremendously encouraging," Brock said. "After the meeting, most of the people lined up here to sign up (and volunteer)."

The support of the community hosting the clinic, Brock said, is integral to being able to pull off an event the size of a RAM clinic.

"It's absolutely essential," Brock said. "I don't think in any of these 726 events we've never not had the support of the local community, and I think that's the reason why this whole thing has been successful."

During the meeting, Brock and other health care providers who have previously worked with RAM laid out exactly what will be needed to pull off the operation. Participants also worked on forming various committees to assist in the organizational process and discussed ways to properly utilize the Lee County Airport for the event.

Health Wagon Executive Director Teresa Gardner said community support for the clinic was evident by the more than 50 people who turned up to help begin the organizational process.

"We had a really exceptional turnout, so we're very hopeful that we'll have a successful event with the amount of community engagement we have here," Gardner said. "I know our first planning event for (the Wise County RAM clinic) wasn't this large. We had a large number of people stepping forward and they said they would take on a committee and so forth like that. Afterwards, people were coming up and telling us about the resources they had, so I think it will be largely successful."

Gardner noted that planning for most RAM events takes the better part of a year to complete, while organizers for the Lee County clinic will have just over three months to get everything in order.

Although one of RAM's largest events is held in nearby Wise County, Gardner said the need in Lee County and surrounding areas is enough to justify a new clinic being held.

"There are a lot of health care disparities in the Southwest Virginia region," Gardner said. "There are higher instances of diabetes, depression, breathing problems, and COPD and things like that. So there's a lot of health care needs in the area, and that's why RAM is so needed to come in and provide the free eye, dental and medical care."

Health Wagon Medical Director Joe Smiddy said event organizers are still in the process of recruiting additional medical professionals, including dentists and optometrists, to work at the event. So far, around two dozen health care providers, most of them dentists, have confirmed their participation.

"The success of the event and the number of patients we can see will depend on the number of dentists we ultimately can have here," Smiddy said. "The local dentists who have volunteered for this event and to provide follow up for patients welcome the help."

While those with a medical background play an important role in the operation of the clinic, Smiddy said volunteers are also needed for a variety of other jobs.

"We need people to fundraise, we need people to help on the grounds, to cleanup and prepare," Smiddy said. "We need people to help us enroll volunteers and assign them to duties and we need food so we can feed the patients and volunteers."

Smiddy said the success of the inaugural clinic will go a long way toward determining if it will become an annual happening.

"We really want this to be such a successful event that we can have it again next year," Smiddy said. "That way we can have another one and hopefully have it become an annual event. There is a window of opportunity here and a great start here, and we expect it to be a very successful event." 

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