Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a non-profit organization that was founded by Stan Brock in 1985. The original goal of the organization was to deliver basic medical-aid to people who live in remote places around the world. The idea for this mission sprouted when Brock was injured while living in a remote area in South America, and had no access to any medical-aid to treat his injury. This experience made him aware of how simple ailments could be deadly with lack of proper basic care.
In 1992 RAM started its activities in the U.S., offering free medical services to people. Today 85% of RAM’s activity is in the U.S. Despite the fact that the U.S. is one of the richest countries in the world, when it comes to health care the reality is gloomy. A recent survey shows that 14.6% of the American population has no health insurance: that is 45.2 million people, including more than 5 million children. Many other people are insured but cannot afford to meet their deductible; hence they refrain from using their health care services. These people are not homeless or jobless. They are the working poor, one of the most invisible social groups of our time. The working poor work hard for a living, yet they cannot afford basic medical care. Immigrants and refugees are other groups of people who do not receive sufficient health care due to lack of knowledge of the health system or trust in the authorities.
RAM operates in different locations in the U.S and will hold a clinic for 3-5 days at a time, providing free medical services from approximately 6am-6pm each day. Health care services offered include dental, vision, Ob/Gyn, chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, medical, and more. The vision lab, which is in a semi-truck, is able to make up to 300 pairs of prescription glasses per day. RAM also has up to 90 dental operatories that can travel to each clinic location. At maximum capacity, a clinic can treat approximately 1,000 people per day. RAM is a volunteer based organization. All health care and non-medical personnel are volunteers. Volunteers pay for their own travel and lodging expenses; some even use their own vacation time to take part in a RAM clinic.
Currently RAM’s headquarters is based in Knoxville, TN. The organization has several trucks and airplanes that bring their medical equipment to the various locations where a clinic operates. RAM never initiates a clinic but rather waits to be invited by a community. The hosting community is responsible to provide the location, infrastructure, logistics, and much of the financing for a clinic. In some states that have hosted several clinics a RAM Affiliate has been established. This is a local non-profit organization with a similar infrastructure and equipment to RAM, operating under the same principles. This enables RAM to have several clinics simultaneously at different locations alleviating some of the demand for medical equipment. RAM Affiliates also support nearby states wanting to host their own clinics by loaning them the equipment and experience.
Currently most U.S. states do not allow out-of-state health care practitioners to volunteer their services for clinics like RAM’s. Therefore, RAM encourages each host community to petition their local government to allow medical volunteers from out-of-state to serve at the clinic if extra people are needed. Also, since the focus of RAM is a humanitarian effort, sponsors are not allowed to promote their business or ideological agenda. This way there is no conflict of interest or pressure on attendees or practitioners to support any specific business or sponsor products or services.
The current mission of the RAM clinic is to provide free health care to whoever seeks it with no discrimination of color, race, religion, or immigration status. RAM’s philosophy is to treat people with dignity and respect, and to acknowledge the fact that these people work hard and they are visible. RAM’s hope is that each clinic can bring a whole community together and help to provide for a better and healthier future.
To help make this operation successful RAM needs medical and non-medical volunteers and sponsors. The health care areas that are most in demand are dental and vision. Check RAM’s clinic schedule to see the locations and dates of clinics around the country at ramusa.org.
To learn more about Remote Area Medical watch this CBS 60 Minutes: