For Immediate Release
Date: Jun 10th, 2010
Contact: By Dr. Bill Collins
How a Star was Born
The history of RAM Kentucky begins with the history of Remote Area Medical, which was formed in 1985 by Stan Brock, a former co-star of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom television series. Brock is a native of Great Britain and was born to a civil servant in the city of Preston, which is located in the district of Lancashire, in Northwest England.
At age 16, Brock sailed across the Atlantic to Guyana, a small country in South America. While living there, he worked on a cattle ranch deep in the heart of the Amazon, where medical, dental, and optical care was a 30-day hike through the rain forest to Georgetown, the country’s capital. The healthcare issues Brock encountered while living in Guyana prompted his visionary dream to make healthcare more accessible to the country’s natives. In 1968, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom discovered Brock, and he agreed to become the series’ co-star.
Even while working with Wild Kingdom, Brock never forgot his dream of providing accessible healthcare to Guyana’s natives. In 1985, his dream became the reality known as Remote Area Medical, or RAM. While missions to third world countries were RAM’s original agenda, Brock soon realized that healthcare accessibility problems also exist in rural parts of America. From RAM headquarters based in Knoxville, Tennessee, Brock began organizing free healthcare clinics or “expeditions” as RAM calls them, in rural portions of Tennessee. The success of those expeditions led to Brock’s second dream of hosting free healthcare expeditions in every state in America. To accomplish this dream, he established RAM’s Rural America division.
In 1999, Brock came one step closer to realizing his dream when RAM crossed the Tennessee border to host a RAM expedition in Wise, Virginia. But, in organizing the U.S. expeditions, he soon realized that expanding them throughout the U.S. would be a slow process, not because RAM lacked the volunteers or interest to do so, but because of barriers placed upon out-of-state healthcare professionals by state licensing boards. Nevertheless, as Brock continued conducting RAM expeditions in Tennessee and Virginia, he was able to generate nationwide media interest, and slowly build an army of healthcare professionals nationwide. His perseverance for accessible healthcare eventually gained him access into Kentucky, when a county judge/executive, Wayne T. Rutherford, noticed signs for RAM’s Wise expedition and decided to see what it was all about. Upon investigating the Wise expedition, Judge Rutherford became determined to hold a RAM clinic in his county of Pike. With Judge Rutherford as a strong ally, Brock was able to transcend another state border when the first Pike County RAM Expedition was held at Pike County Central High School in June 2008.
The 2008 Pike County RAM Expedition provided 624 patients with 729 medical, dental, and optical services, worth an estimated value of $112,955. Because of the success of Pike County’s expedition, Brock contacted Dr. Bill Collins and invited him to form a Kentucky chapter of RAM International to oversee all future RAM expeditions in the state. Stan Brock appointed board members, and RAM Kentucky was born. The first expedition overseen by RAM Kentucky was held at Soft Shell, in December 2008. The Soft Shell expedition was also successful, providing 720 patients with 822 medical, dental and optical services valued at an estimated $100,540.
In 2009 two expeditions were held, one in Pike County, the other in Letcher County. This proved to be a remarkable year for RAM Kentucky. The Pike Clinic was in its second year and enlisted many additional services and more providers offering care. The dental component boasted over 300 volunteers with support from the Kentucky Dental Association under the guidance of President Mike Johnson and Vice President Joe McCarty. The University of Louisville School of Dentistry, now seasoned in their second year, once again led by Dean John Sauk, came with a force over 150 strong of faculty, students, residents, and staff. Pikeville College School of Osteopathic Medicine was on site with students, faculty and residents. Local Hospitals and Health Departments provided additional care and follow-ups. The total patient count rose to 830 and the value of care delivered rose to over 200,000 dollars. The clinic had become so efficient that no patients were turned away, something very rarely realized at RAM clinics. Due to the success, Dean Sauk vowed to make this an annual event for the U of L School of Dentistry and the promise of commitment to the community of Pike County. He saw many areas of opportunity for students, faculty and alumni.
In September 2009 the first RAM Letcher was held at the Jenkins Independent School. This was also a milestone as Dean Sharon Turner led the charge with the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry into their first RAM clinic. They came in force at a difficult time in the academic year and provided astounding numbers to man the clinic. Dr. Fonda Robinson, managed the clinic floor while Dean Turner led the dental triage. The weekend proved to be one with many obstacles of weather as the rains poured upon the clinic. The local hospitals, local Health Department and Pikeville College School of Osteopathic Medicine provided care to the local population. Dr. Bill Webb once again provided optometrists to provide the much sought after vision care. The clinic treated 600 patients and provided 112,000 dollars in clinic care. Once again no patients were turned away at a RAM Kentucky clinic which proved the efficiency of the clinic. This marked a first in RAM Kentucky clinics with both the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry and University of Louisville School of Dentistry providing care to the indigent population and confirming their commitment to the people of Kentucky. Over 1,400 patients received care in 2009 because of the combined effort of the two schools.
As I am writing, our third RAM Pike County is on the horizon and this clinic will offer more than any previous clinic. The U S Public Health Service has realized the importance of these clinics and sees the importance of utilizing this as training for post disaster training, a group called One is Greater Than None has signed on to help make the clinic a success. The thoughts of RAM Louisville are dancing in my head, the enormity potential of this clinic makes it unimaginable. But one thing keeps coming to mind; the patients - I see all the faces from clinics past, I hear their stories ringing in my ears. All the single moms trying to provide for their children, the minimum wage workers with families, the young adults trying to find jobs in bad economic times, the elderly on Social Security trying to make ends meet on 1960’s income, this is surely not the American Dream nor is it the American way. My thoughts meander back to the first clinic I attended, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, Tennessee. The first patient was a factory worker, divorced mother of three; she had nine teeth, all badly broken down. I asked her what she wished me to do. She replied, “Take a couple of teeth out. I drove six hours to get here, but they told me they could only do one or two”. I politely asked who had told her this. When she told me it was the lady overseeing the clinic, I asked her how many she wanted taken out and she replied, “All if you will, I am in so much pain and have been for over a year.” I complied with her wishes. I extracted nine teeth, performed an alveloplasty, and placed six sutures. From that moment on I knew that we as professionals had to address the problems that faced the backbone of America. I slowly began to realize that when parents had to raise children on low wages they must neglect themselves; it was not out of waste but purely out of necessity. I tried to rationalize, to understand why so many lined up for hours to get basic dental services - they were not asking for cosmetic, endodontic, or prosthetic services, just basic needs. As I questioned several patients I found they all had low paying jobs, families, rent, and were just having a tough time making ends meet. I no longer felt like I was giving them a hand out, but was giving them a hand up, a chance to put their monies to better use to their families, a chance to climb further up the ladder. I did over 100 extractions that day and I was tired, my hands feeling the tingling and numbness, but my heart felt good. I was sold on this concept and I knew I could take what I learned and build good charity clinics in Kentucky, to utilize the skills the professionals would learn for post disaster situations. This is how RAM Kentucky was born.
Snapping back to reality, my thoughts have turned back to RAM Pike County 2010. I have encountered the most wonderful group of teenage girls from New York that wish to help charitable organizations achieve their goal. This group, called One is Greater Than None, has pledged 5,000 dollars to the Pike expedition. This clinic will mark the 600th clinical expedition of Remote Area Medical. The US Public Health Service will be in attendance with over 200 personnel, the Greater Louisville Medical Society will bring physicians, the University of Louisville School of Dentistry will bring students and faculty, Pikeville College School of Osteopathic Medicine will bring students, three area hospitals will provide services. The enormity of it all overwhelms me as I try to think of how this will flow, where to position chairs, will there be enough food, how much water will we need for patients, the thoughts just keep coming and I keep making notes. We shall see when June 19th arrives.