Appalachian clinic draws record
of the Health System
a hand at the RAM clinic were, left to right, U.Va. board
member William Crutchfield, Dr. Karen Rheuban of U.Va.s
Health System, Gov. Mark Warner, and Dr. Tim Garson and Ed
Howell, who head the Health System.
By Dan Heuchert
dont have high school diplomas. Many dont have telephones.
More dont have transportation. A Third World country?
these conditions prevail just a six-hour drive from Charlottesville
in Southwest Virginia, where a 72-person U.Va. Health System team
participated last month in the annual, free health-care clinic.
the weekend of July 25-27, the U.Va. health-care providers were
among the volunteers who provided free health, dental and vision
care for 4,749 people at the Virginia-Kentucky fairgrounds in
Wise County, according to Claudette Dalton, U.Va.s assistant
dean of community-based medicine, who coordinates U.Va.s
Virginia is a medically underserved region. Dalton said that while
many of those seen at the clinic are employed, they dont
have health insurance and dont earn enough to take care
people there are truly tough, Dalton said. Their economic
margin is so thin. Often they have a choice between paying their
rent or paying for medical care. Theyll always pay the rent.
just four years, the annual clinic is the largest in the world
organized under the auspices of the Remote Area Medical Volunteer
Corps, according to the international organizations Web
site (www.ramusa.org). In all, nearly 1,000 volunteers provided
more than $650,000 worth of care at no charge over
2 1/2 days.
first RAM clinic, held in 2000 at the Lonesome Pine Airport in
Wise, provided only vision and dental care. The U.Va. Health
System sent a 20-member delegation to the second clinic in
2001; after a weekend spent working under tents in the pouring
rain, the volunteers returned with a better idea of what help
was needed, Dalton said.
do a little more every year, Dalton said.
year, U.Va. sent general medicine, womens health, ear-nose-throat,
gastrointestinal, social work, laboratory and pharmacy teams.
The Health System also sent mobile mammography, ultrasound and
telemedicine units, Dalton said.
said staffing the RAM clinic is a team effort. Dentists and vision-care
experts from around the state volunteer their services. U.Va.s
College at Wise provides housing and food. Sister Bernadette Kenny,
a Catholic nun and nurse practitioner, coordinates the logistical
arrangements in Wise. The U.Va. Health System provides equipment,
supplies, funds and personnel.