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Over 700 Served at First Southside RAM Clinic

Bright and early Saturday morning hundreds of people descended on Greensville County High School for free medical, dental and visions services provided by area volunteers and Remote Access Medical of Virginia.

The parking lot opened at midnight and number distribution was planned to begin at 3 am.

Light rain at 4 am cleared and the bright sunshine was tempered by a pleasant breeze and comfortable temperatures.

The large parking lot by the gymnasium was full before 5 am and the overflow parking by the ROTC building was full not long after.  There were two other satellite parking areas at Main and Laurel Streets as well.

Patients were given numbers and a general idea of when to head towards the front door. While waiting, announcements were made about the types of services available. Those in need of care were given the option of dental or vision care, in addition to medical care. Due to time constraints and other concerns, patients were given the option of only one service-Dental or Vision. Having a tooth extracted changes a patient’s blood pressure (as would any other surgical procedure) and makes some eye exams impossible on the same day. Patients of all ages were seen, and income or residency was not an issue for this clinic. Any patient who showed up was given a number and provided with health care.

The large crowd that formed on the front lawn of the high school after receiving their numbers were given snacks and bottled water while they waited, and some patients also reported being served breakfast. The volunteer with the bullhorn, a teacher from Washington, DC, kept patients entertained and informed as they waited. Golf carts were provided for those who needed assistance getting from the back parking lot to the front door. While there were complaints of people not being able to hear, groups were called in close in ranges of 50, so the person struggling to be heard over the crowd had the people who needed to hear within range. After 7:30 the RAM volunteers started using a bullhorn, but were still respectful of the neighbors early on a Saturday morning. Numbers were called and registration proceeded as quickly as possible, given the limited space and number of people.

Once registered at one of more than a dozen stations in the lobby, patients were directed to the cafeteria for triage.

As a triage station was available cards were held up letting runners know where to take the next patient. Each of the tables set up in the cafeteria held two triage stations, ensuring that all of the volunteers were able to get patients to the care providers as quickly as possible. During triage all patients had their vitals (blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate, and blood sugar) taken and were asked the typical questions patients are asked at the Doctor’s office about health concerns, medications and the like. Well over 60 Registered Nurses made Triage quick and painless (some would disagree with the painless assessment, though, as blood sugar cannot be tested without pricking a finger to draw blood, to which a surprising number of people are squeamish).

After triage, medical patients stayed in the high school, where a number of services were offered in different rooms. One class room was set up as an EKG station. A wide range of services were offered for those in need of medical care. Several specialties were present, including Cardiology, Podiatry, Mental Health and Urology.

In addition to Primary Care, X-rays, laboratory services and other diagnostic testing was available. People waiting for Mammograms found that they needed to wait until Sunday as the person driving the truck had health issues of his own and was unable to get here in time. While there is no current status on his condition, prayers were offered for a speedy recovery.

The Lions Club mobile vision clinic was on site, along with 31 eye-care professionals. One Ophthalmologist, six Optometrists, six Opticians, ten Vision Techs and eight Vision Students screened patients for a wide range of problems, including glaucoma, and were able to make most prescriptions on site.

What appeared to be the most popular service was Dental Care. A team of 45, that included Dentists, Patient Ready Students with Faculty, Hygienists and Dental Assistants offered Cleanings, Fillings and Extractions. The gymnasium was outfitted with 20 stations.

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After additional triage, patients were divided into three groups, based on the service that was needed. Patients were given the option of one service before being sent to one of three sections in the bleachers. Those expecting to receive multiple dental services could return on Sunday, if able, for additional care. Some patients were further disappointed when one of the Dentists would only fill one cavity, as opposed to all of the patient's cavaties.

The only appearance of an issue was keeping people in order. Upon arrival, patients in the gymnasium were just told to line up, as opposed to being given numbers, and after triage were given numbers, but only the fillings group kept a number system. One lead volunteer grew mildly frustrated while trying to keep the cleaning group in order and, at one point, told them that she didn’t “care what number they were given” by the previous volunteeer.  The cleaning group was the most vocal about line-cutters, and loudly pointed out when one woman, who was not present for most of the day, showed up in the gym and had her teeth cleaned after waiting less than an hour whole others  waiting for a cleaning had been waiting for several hours. Many who had arrived early and gotten a place in line, attended workshops, took their children to day care or ran errands or got a meal before returning to continue waiting.

The Dental clinic used few disposable tools, and two autoclaves (the size of large laser printers) worked overtime to keep the tools that were used sterilized. At one point early in the day, everything stopped as they ran out of tools and had to wait for more to be sterilized; after the volunteers working to keep the tools sterile got ahead of the demand that was not an issue for the rest of the day as the autoclaves sterilized tray after tray of dental tools.

As with any trip to the Dentist, patients were offered education on oral care and left with a toothbrush, floss, a package of DenTek Easy Brushes and a sample of Listerine.

In addition to the care provided, there were several classes and workshops offered throughout the day on Saturday. Many people took advantage of these workshops while they waited. Eventually a few of the workshops relocated to the gym lobby, the most notable being the hands-on CPR course in front of the trophy case.

The Virginia Department of Health was onsite for the event.  Among the workshops offered by the VDH were multiple nutrition classes, including Diabetic and Kidney Nutrition. In these workshops FitBit style pedometers, coolers, and several booklets with recipes and information were distributed.

The Bureau of Insurance was present with an attorney to answer any questions about health care and insurance.

In addition to the workshops information tables were set up in the hallways (including one offering Red Velvet Cake), and a Prayer Station was provided between the main building and the gymnasium.

Volunteers worked to arrange the clinic, recruit providers and work with Remote Access Medical to clear all the logistic hurdles. Volunteers worked with Greensville County Public Schools to secure the space. Volunteers also did all the promotion for the clinic and arranged transportation from other communities served.

Volunteers kept the whole event running as smoothly as possible. Everything from registration to the actual care was provided by volunteers of all ages. There were volunteers directing traffic before the sun rose, volunteers distributed water and snacks while people waited to register and while they waited for care. Volunteers directed patients to the right room or building for the service that was needed. The Medical, Dental and Vision Professionals were all volunteers, as were all of the people supporting them by sterilizing tools, cleaning and repairing equipment and running samples to the lab.

The volunteers came from all over the region. Virginia Commonwealth University had a large contingent of volunteers from the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. The Eastern Virginia School of Medicine in Norfolk was also well represented (an accident in one of the tunnels left some volunteers from Norfolk waiting for over an hour in the tunnel, but the dedicated volunteers made it to Emporia safely).

The Meherrin Ruritan Club prepared and served the food for the volunteers in the Band Room.  

Most notable among the corps of volunteers were a group of faculty and 4 students from the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania, who drove 300 miles to be here.

In addition to the many volunteers, everything was donated. There were monetary donations from several groups that paid for what was not already available. Dr. Tillar donated equipment and frames for the Vision Clinic. All of the major equipment from the dental chairs to the x-ray machines was provided by Remote Access Medical, the organization behind this clinic and many others nationwide.

Upcoming clinics in Virginia include:

  • Wise – July 21-23
  • Grundy  - October 7 & 8
  • Warsaw – November 4 & 5

There is also an urban clinic planned for Washington, DC on August 26.

Even after nearly a year of planning this event was not without hiccups, but it proved to be an overwhelming success and provided much needed services to nearly one thousand people in an area from Amelia County to Portsmouth, with the lion’s share coming from the immediate area.

Remote Access Medical was founded in 1985 by Stan Brock. The organization provides medical, care through mobile clinics in underserved, isolated, or impoverished communities. Most clinics provide general medical, dental, vision, preventive care, and education. RAM also provides services internationally, disaster relief and mobile veterinarian services.

For more information on RAM, visit their website at

RAMVirginia is an affiliate of RAM that now oversees the RAM Clinics in Wise, Smith County, Warsaw and now Emporia. RAMVirginia is led by William and Mary graduate Dr. Victoria Molnar Weiss, OD, who has been involved in over 45 clinics in Virginia – including helping to found the landmark clinic in Wise, Virginia - and elsewhere, including New Orleans, LA after Hurricane Katrina.

You may visit the RAMVirginia Facebook Page, or donate to future clinics in Virginia by visiting, clicking on the"support RAM of Virginia" box and selecting RAM of Virginia in the donation details box. You may also donate to the overall program support for RAM USA of any of the other options in the list.

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