Free Medical Clinic Serves 700 Patients

· March 11, 2010

Southern Virginia University hosted a free clinic this past weekend that provided needed medical, dental and eye care for nearly 700 patients.

A total of 274 volunteers assisted with the two-day clinic. Doctors, dentists, optometrists and other medical professionals also joined with Southern Virginia University students, faculty, staff and others from the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps (RAM) to set up and run the event.

Many patients lined up at 3 a.m. or earlier to make sure they would be seen. Some drove from as far as West Virginia and North Carolina.

Services offered included general medical checkups, women’s health screenings, eye exams, and dental checkups, fillings and extractions. RAM coordinators estimate the value of the services rendered at more than $220,000.

Barbara van Kuiken, who teaches chemistry and advises health pre-professionals at Southern Virginia, has assisted at nearly 50 RAM clinics. She and her students worked for more than a year to plan an organize this one.

“It takes a lot of planning to put on an event like this, but it’s all worth it,” van Kuiken said. “Before the clinic, I got a phone call from a woman who asked, ‘Are you Mormon?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and there was a long pause. Then she said, ‘You people are so wonderful.’ It feels great to help facilitate this kind of service and sentiment in our own back yard.”

Jacque Loving, a senior at Southern Virginia who has volunteered at more than 25 RAM clinics said that watching and assisting the doctors helped her decide that she wants to go to medical school and help people in need.

“Helping with these clinics has exposed me to the medical field and to the great needs of the people who come in for help,” said Loving, who is from Las Vegas and has applied to medical schools for the fall. “This clinic not only did a lot of good, but it has helped us get even more students involved in this service opportunity.”

This was Matt Hafen’s fifth time helping dentists at a RAM clinic. The senior from Belmont, Mass., has found a passion for providing dental care to those in desperate need. At this clinic, Hafen, who served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Argentina, helped translate for Spanish-speaking patients and also assisted a dentist who was extracting badly decayed and infected teeth.

“I helped get patients ready, retrieve instruments and make sure the equipment was properly sterilized between uses,” Hafen said. “The best part is seeing the gratitude of people who have been in pain or who have been embarrassed about their teeth.”

The clinic at Southern Virginia was the 594th RAM has offered since 1985. It also was the first time the organization has hosted one of its clinics in this part of Virginia.

“Many of the dental patients have been in pain for a long time. Many of those who come for eye glasses haven’t seen clearly for years,” van Kuiken said. “They are very grateful and express that to the students in meaningful ways.”