They've helped more than 740,000 needy people across the world gain free access to health care, now East Tennessee's Remote Area Medical (RAM) will celebrate a milestone doing what they do best, right here in Knoxville.
From Wednesday, Jan. 31 through Sunday, Feb. 4, RAM will host its 900th free clinic at Chilhowee Park, complete with a red carpet at the patient entrance. (Scroll down for full details on the Knoxville clinic)
The group offers free dental, vision and medical care with the help of volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists, and other health care professionals.
“We are facing a serious crisis and it is not just poor folks who are suffering,” said RAM Founder and President Stan Brock. “Washington continues to debate the cost of health care, the costs continue to rise, and our numbers are not getting any lower.”
Brock founded RAM in 1985 to serve as a safety net provider of free medical care in remote areas of developing countries, such as Guyana, Mexico and Haiti. He quickly realized there was also a huge need right here at home. The first local RAM clinic was held on May 9, 1992, in Sneedville to help a community that had just lost its only hospital and dentist.
RAM recruited two dentists, two dental assistants and a registered nurse to help provide dental aid to the area’s residents. They expected to treat a handful of people, but more than 50 were waiting when they arrived.
In 1993, RAM returned to Hancock County for its second American clinic and for seven additional clinics in East Tennessee.
The group has also worked over the years to change state laws to allow medical professionals from other states to volunteer at RAM clinics. Tennessee and 11 other states have passed the legislation.
“We really do rely on the kindness and generosity of medical, dental, and vision practitioners and the public at large to help provide free care to folks in need, ” RAM CEO Jeff Eastman said. “We couldn’t have possibly provided free care to almost a million people without our volunteers.”
Over the years, the popularity of the clinics has grown exponentially, and thousands of people show up for help.
Knoxville Clinic details
The upcoming Knoxville clinic will be held at the Jacob Building at Chilhowee Park, located at 3301 East Magnolia Avenue, from Wednesday, Jan. 31 through Sunday, Feb. 4. All services are free and no insurance or ID is required.
Because so many people show up for treatment, you must arrive early to get your place in line.
Patient parking for the Knoxville clinic will be located at Gate #1 and will open at midnight on Wednesday, Jan. 31. Tickets will be distributed as patients begin entering the lot a midnight and patients will be seen in chronological order according to their ticket number as clinic doors open at 6 a.m. This process will repeat each clinic day.
Services available include dental cleanings, dental fillings, dental extractions, dental x-rays, dentures (on a limited basis), eye exams, eyeglass prescriptions, free eyeglasses made on-site, dermatology, flu vaccines, HIV/HEP-C testing, women's health exams and general medical exams.
In addition, patients will be able to schedule a free spay/neuter surgery for their pets, but pets should not be brought to the clinic.
The red carpet for this event will be a first for RAM, but it sends an important message to their patients.
“The red carpet will serve as a unique reminder that RAM patients are equally as valuable as the highest-paid and tremendously regarded celebrities in Hollywood,” Brock said.
To learn more about RAM's upcoming clinics and how to volunteer or donate, visit their website.