Stephen Taylor · March 9, 2016
Southern Virginia University and Remote Area Medical hosted a free clinic that provided needed medical, dental and vision care for more than 500 patients last weekend.
Over 300 medical professionals, Southern Virginia faculty, staff and students, RAM personnel and general volunteers contributed over the course of two days. This was Southern Virginia’s fourth RAM clinic, and the first hosted in conjunction with RAM of Virginia, a new affiliate of RAM’s national organization.
The clinic provided services exceeding the value of $125,000. Similar to past clinics offered at Southern Virginia biennially since 2010, medical services included screenings, women’s health examinations and care for people with hypertension; dental services included cleanings, fillings and extractions; and vision care included both examinations and the on-site construction of prescription glasses. This clinic also offered a new booth for hearing aid.
RAM’s mission is to provide quality health care at no charge to its patients. British philanthropist Stan Brock founded RAM in 1985, after witnessing the damage preventable and curable illnesses caused to remote tribes of Wapishana Indians in Guyana, South America. Brock himself was injured while living among the Wapishana, and said that a 26-day journey separated him from the medical care he needed.
“When I left Guyana, I vowed to find a way to deliver basic medical aid to people in the world’s inaccessible regions,” Brock said according to RAM’s website. “RAM is the way I have kept that promise.”
Many of the patients at last week’s clinic traveled from nearby areas, but some traveled from as far as rural parts of West Virginia. Patients arrived by 9:00 p.m. on Friday night, standing in line to receive services starting at 6:00 a.m. the following morning.
Glory Colette, a resident of Charlottesville, Va., arrived at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday to receive several different services. Over the course of the morning she benefitted from dental care, medical examinations and vision tests. As she prepared to return to her home, Colette said she felt a psychological renewal in addition to the physical relief she found at the clinic.
“No distance is too great to come to a wonderful program like this,” Colette said. “I have nothing but glowing reports of this service. I’m overwhelmed by how kind and caring the practitioners were toward me. This kind of arrangement fills a massive need in America.”
A number of patients at last week’s clinic had benefitted from the services of previous clinics at Southern Virginia. Daniel and Chris Fix, a father and son from Lexington, Va., both came for new prescription glasses after Daniel Fix broke his glasses — a pair he had received at a RAM clinic in 2014 — last October, and lacked the insurance coverage to replace them.
Lisa Solomon of Vesuvius, Va., came early Saturday morning to receive two new pairs of glasses, and she brought several members of her family with her for other care. Solomon had previously visited a clinic at Southern Virginia for dental services she couldn’t afford on her own. She commented on how well organized this particular clinic was, and how grateful she was for the services she received.
“I think this is a really great thing that [the volunteers] do for people who don’t have insurance, or who don’t have glasses,” she said. “It’s a really wonderful thing.”
Southern Virginia student Sam Mellor led the organizational efforts necessary for the university to host the clinic. Mellor coordinated the work of several committees — each led by other Southern Virginia students — to recruit medical professionals and other volunteers, raise funds, arrange for facilities and security, organize accommodations and food for volunteers, and publicize the clinic.
“‘This massive undertaking demonstrates strong organizational abilities in addition to dedication to giving meaningful service,’” said Provost Madison Sowell, quoting those who nominated Mellor for a recent university service award. “Each Remote Area Medical clinic is monumental in scope, so the fact that [Mellor was] in charge of organizing the 2016 clinic underscores his exceptional people skills, leadership abilities, and organizational skills, as well as his deeply held desire to serve others.’”
Mellor and other RAM coordinators said that this clinic was the product of tireless cooperation between Dr. Barbara van Kuiken, professor of chemistry at Southern Virginia; Ginger Lanier, director of student health services; and numerous university staff ranging from safety and facilities personnel to communications employees. Additionally, the Buena Vista Police Department, Rescue Squad and Ministerial Alliance, a group promoting inter-faith cooperation among Buena Vista’s churches, also donated countless hours in preparing for and operating the clinic.
“Lots of people do service, but to put together a large service project like this is unique,” Mellor said. “At the end of the day, we were able to put smiles on 500 people’s faces by providing services they wouldn’t otherwise get. That’s why we do this.”