UPDATE: When patients walk through the doors they are greeted by dozens of volunteers, volunteers who donated their time to helping local residents. They say they wouldn't want it any other way.
David DiPalma traveled over 900 miles to help neighbors seeking medical attention. He is one of 25 student volunteers from the University of Buffalo in New York. “A lot of people out there are in pain and a lot of people need our help and they aren't getting served otherwise,” said third year dental student David DiPalma.
At RAM clinics DiPalma and his peers do hands on dental work. It is a chance to better their craft while giving back to the community. “They get the experience they will not see at dental school, and they will be exposed to situations they probably wouldn't see in dental school. These kids love it,” said Michael Pignato.
More than 100 volunteers from across the country helped make this weekend's clinic a success. Tonya Marthaler traveled from North Carolina to test blood sugar levels. “I feel in this life we have to give back, to help people who aren't able to get health care. To be skilled in an area that I can help with, it's important,” said the registered nurse.
Many volunteers were local and not all had medical backgrounds. Marilynn Toliver helped translate for Spanish-speaking patients. “The people who come in are very much in need. It is great to see people with eye and teeth problems being taken care of when their insurance won't. We've enjoyed it!” said Marilynn Toliver.
For many of these volunteers, the time spent at the RAM clinic is their passion. Something they enjoy, no matter how long the hours are or how demanding the job may be.
"We know there are people out there who need our help. Not enough things like this it needs to be more of it,” said DiPalma.
“I just do it. Dentistry is a hard business, but it has been good to me. I just give back maybe it’s my way to heaven,” said Pignato.
PREVIOUS STORY: The Rhea County Middle School has turned into a mini hospital. RAM officials expect to treat over 600 patients this weekend alone.
Sharaud Norman and his wife sit in the bleachers waiting for their number to be called. They waited overnight to get free dental care with the remote area medical health care clinic. “Cleaning, cavity filled, general stuff. I may have 1 extraction from a wisdom tooth. All of that would run me hundreds of dollars,” said Sharaud Norman.
Norman, an Army veteran, said dental work is just too expensive and it doesn't fit into his budget. “If you go to get a cavity or crown you may spend $12,500. And that is really difficult for people to swallow.”
Kelly Jackson who served in the Navy agrees. “The way the system is now, its $218 a tooth. When your poor man, this helps,” said Jackson.
Dental care isn't the only service being offered. People can get an eye exam and walk out with free glasses. Don Cunningham waited five years for a pair of new specs. “On SSI it doesn't give us much to survive on. We have to put our priorities where they need to be and that are our bills,” said Cunningham.
All services are free. No proof of income or insurance is required. The program's mission is to stop people's suffering. “We care about the folks medical needs, that they can't get an exam, and they have no job because they need glasses, we care,” said Clinic Manager, Ron Brewer.
And for that hundreds of folks across the Tennessee Valley are thankful. “I am grateful for a program like this. So I can get glasses, dentures, or whatever we may need. It is one of the best things going on right now,” said Cunningham.
The clinic will reopen again Sunday at 6 a.m. until 2 p.m.
PREVIOUS STORY: The lines are already forming for a free health clinic that opens on Saturday morning. Remote Area Medical expects to treat over 600 patients in Rhea County this weekend.
"We got here this morning, about 8 o'clock," said George Futrell.
Futrell and his wife, Melody, have set up camp outside of Rhea County Middle School.
They're the first people in line for the free RAM Clinic. They arrived 22 hours before doors open.
"We are gonna get some dental work done, hopefully," Futrell said.
Doctors warned Futrell that his tooth decay could infect his heart, and eventually, cause a stroke.
"I felt like I needed to try to get them out the best I could, but it's pretty expensive when you try to get them pulled on your own," he said. "Without insurance, it's like 200 dollars a tooth. If you go the affordable way, it's still 70 dollars. We still didn't have that."
Volunteers were busy setting up on Friday.
"Anything they need, we're here to accommodate them," said Ron Brewer, RAM Clinic Manager.
The clinic offers free vision and dental care, plus women's health services. Doctors can also treat anyone with general aches and pains.
"No ID required. No questions about annual income," Brewer explained.
That's why many patients say it's worth the wait.
"We've paid for everything all our life," said Futrell. "We thought it's time God could help us get something done."
PREVIOUS STORY: Hundreds of people are expected to take advantage of a free health clinic this weekend in Rhea County. Organizers say lines for the RAM Clinic are expected to begin forming a day in advance.
The clinic is for everyone. Patients won't have to show proof of income or their identification to be seen by a doctor.
"I had a toothache, and I didn't have dental insurance. Because the loss of my job, I lost the insurance," said Darlene Calloway of Chattanooga, a former RAM Clinic patient.
MAP LINK | Rhea County Middle School
Calloway was living in pain because she couldn't afford a trip to the dentist, but that all changed when she visited the clinic several years ago.
The RAM Clinic offers free dental, vision, and general medical care, including women's health and screenings.
Calloway waited all day to see a dentist, who filled her cavities for free.
"I appreciate all the dentists that took the time out to take care of those that can't afford it," said Calloway.
It was worth every hour she had to wait.
"I'm not trying to cry," she said, pushing back tears, "but I really do appreciate what they've done."
The clinic opens at 6:00am Saturday at Rhea County Middle School. The parking area will open at midnight. Lines typically begin forming on Friday afternoon and evening.
PREVIOUS STORY: Remote Area Medical will have a two-day, free healthcare clinic in Rhea County Saturday and Sunday, March 12 and 13 in Evansville, TN. The clinic will begin at 6:00am Saturday and end at 2:00pm Sunday.
RAM is a non-profit agency that provides free health care for those in need, with services performed by doctors and dentists who donate their time and services.
Services provided will include medical, dental, vision and women’s health services.
The clinic will be held at Rhea County Middle School in Evansville, TN.
MAP LINK | Rhea County Middle School
Numbers will be given out Saturday and Sunday to patients starting at 3:00am prior to the 6:00am opening. Typically, the parking lots open at midnight the day of the event, not prior.
Usually, the clinics are very busy. Those interested in receiving treatment should make plans to be on-site. Bringing snacks and water can help pass the waiting time. Be mindful of the weather as well.
STAY DRY | Channel 3 Storm Alert weather
Stan Brock, RAM’s President and Founder, expect they will hand out numbers to about 600 or more people for examination and treatment. RAM just returned from Buena Vista, VA, where they performed a similar clinic. If RAM gets a strong turnout of medical volunteers, that number may be expanded.
If you’re a medical professional and would like to volunteer, you can contact RAM at 865-579-1530 or via email email@example.com
Services available can include: