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Local doctors volunteer at Remote Area Medical

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OOLTEWAH, HAMILTON COUNTY - Remote Area Medical (RAM) was formed in 1992 by Stan Brock. His goal is to help people who can't reach, or afford, medical care.

The non-profit organization began by assisting those in third world countries. Volunteers dropped off supplies and doctors spent time in some of the most remote areas in the world.  

But over time, the demand for free health care in the United States has shifted RAM's focus to helping people in this country.

All of the supplies used to treat hundreds of patients have been donated and about 350 volunteers come from near and far to lend a hand.
    
One local dentist first volunteered when the RAM clinic was stationed at Camp Jordan in 2012. When he heard the clinic was coming back to Hamilton County -- he said the decision to volunteer again was a "no brainer."

"There was an ocean of cars, it looked like Black Friday at Wal-Mart before the doors opened," said Dr. Mark McOmie, "And you go in there and you see that gymnasium full of chairs and it's like, man this looks like a third world country."
    
Dr. McOmie's first time volunteering at a RAM clinic was when the mobile unit came to Camp Jordan in 2012.
What he saw while he was there made sure that time volunteering wouldn't be the last.

"I underestimated the need for dentistry with the poor. Severely," Dr. McOmie said, "I had no idea."

Dr. McOmie spent the weekend pulling hundreds of teeth - for hundreds of people.

"First come first serve, no questions asked," said Bob Nevil, RAM local chair, "All we want to know is your name, address, your medical history so that we can treat you properly."
    
Nevil set a goal to treat at least 1,000 people this weekend at Ooltewah High School. And after driving to the site Friday morning,he's confident they will succeed.

"The school secretary said, 'you know at 7 a.m. this morning there was two ladies waiting to receive care.' This is 7 a.m., we're talking 24 hours before we are going to open the door," Nevil said.

People will drive hundreds of miles and wait for hours in line so Dr. McOmie can pull a tooth. Their response to such a painful procedure is the reason Dr. McOmie continues to volunteer.

"They come in, I work on them, do what most people think is the worst thing, I take a tooth out on them," Dr. McOmie said, "And they get up and they hug ya. And they thank you for being there."

According to RAM's website, those interested in treatment should:

  • The parking lot at the clinic site will open at 12 midnight
  • Patient numbers will be handed out at 3 a.m.
  • Only one number will be given to each patient
  • You must be present to receive a number
  • The amount of numbers handed out is based on the number of healthcare professionals available
  • Services are available on a first come, first served basis
The clinics are very busy. Those interested in receiving treatment should make plans to be on-site at the times above.

With long lines expected, RAM advises that each patient must choose between dental/medical or vision/medical.

No patient will be allowed to register for dental and vision on the same day of service unless they re-enter the line.

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