Area prepping for RAM Morristown event

ECONOMY/INCOME INEQUALITY: Heather Romans, 28, nervously awaits her dental examination as Randi Honaker, seated at left, and Kayla Rose, both volunteer dental hygiene students, wait for the dentist before he extracted eight teeth from Romans during the first Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic in Smyth County, Va., on Friday, April 29, 2016. Romans suffers from Muscular Dystrophy which can impact dental health. RAM provides free medical care for low income people and to people who do not have health insurance in several states across the country. Specializing in free dental, vision, and medical care in isolated and poverty stricken communities, the group sets up mobile medical centers and is having their 800th such event this year. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Remote Area Medical free mobile medical clinic event scheduled for Morristown is less than 90 days away.

RAM will take place the weekend of April 4-5 at Walters State Community College’s main campus in Morristown. The RAM clinic will be the first event in Morristown since 1997.

People are seen without regard to insurance, financial ability or immigration status.

“Our community has to raise $45,000,” Steve Lawrence, vice chair of the RAM community host group said. “We are well on our way.

The community has been tremendous so far for this RAM clinic, Lawrence said.

“We are doing really well in getting dental volunteers,” he said. “We will be running 50 dental chairs. We’re bringing in 20 senior dental students and their dentist supervisor teachers from Tufts University. So we’ve expanded the dental coverage for this event.”

Lawrence said that RAM was able to get dental help through the Lakeway Dental Society when Lawrence did a RAM presentation at the society’s Christmas dinner. There were 54 people who signed the list that night.

Local dentists are also stepping up. Pediatric dentist Dr. Aleghia Helderman is bringing her entire staff to help with the event.

“They’re closing the office and coming down,” Lawrence said.

General medical physicians and some specialties have volunteered for the RAM clinic, according to Lawrence.

A need for the weekend is 20 vision professionals. There are currently five or six professionals.

“We need ophthalmologists, optometrists and technicians, professionals to conduct the exams and write the prescriptions,” Lawrence said. “RAM comes in with a trailer truck that is a self-contained lab to make custom eyeglasses. We expect to make 300-to-400 pairs of eyeglasses that weekend.”

The medical careers dean at Walters State and the director of nursing at Tusculum University are getting students to volunteer for the event. Students will receive clinical credit through RAM.

According to Lawrence, the community needs to prove a lot of things.

“RAM brings 30 people, we needed hotel rooms,” Lawrence said. “It took me only two asks. I want to acknowledge Best Western Plus for 10 rooms at no cost and Hampton Inn West for five rooms at no cost. Some have offered us very good discounts.”

For a Saturday clinic, some people begin arriving as early as Thursday. At 3 a.m. on Saturday, April 4, the RAM coordinator will start giving out the first 100 numbers to people in line. Providers will see people all day long.

“You have to have security, port-a-potties, handwashing stations and all that,” Lawrence said. “You’ve also got garbage during the clinic and medical waste. Quality Waste is taking care of everything, no charge.”

The Tennessee National Guard will help with on-site security, coordinating with Morristown Police, Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office, and Walters State Security.

Set-up for the clinic will be the afternoon of Friday, April 3. That will require at least 100 volunteers, according to Lawrence.

“It takes about six hours to set up,” Lawrence said.

Meals for 350 volunteers have been donated by churches and community groups. Chik-Fil-A of Morristown has also stepped up to donate food to the cause.

“We want to provide some kind of food, even it’s just snack bars, fruit and sandwiches for patients,” Lawrence said.

Major donors include the HealthStar Foundation with a $5,000 donation and Resource MFG with a $1,000 donation.

“There are many donors out there,” Lawrence said. “People may go online through Pay Pal to make donations, there are many people who are working on it.”

On Friday morning, Lawrence spoke to a gathering of Covenant Health at Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System and challenged the employees to donate.

“People are just coming from everywhere to help,” he said.

Lawrence wants to see 1,000 patients show up to the Morristown RAM clinic.

“RAM has set the goal of 500 patients,” he said. “RAM has said that since this is a new clinic ‘you have to build a reputation.’”

Parking will be available in the lot in front of the central building where the flags are, according to Lawrence. There will be personnel to guide traffic.

A triage area will be set up in the main lobby staffed by trained nurses. All who come in will receive general medical screening, then they will make a choice between vision and dental areas.

One of the Morristown-area doctors told Lawrence of a situation involving five patients who have to have teeth pulled before being able to undergo heart surgery.

“This is going to make the difference for them because they don’t have dental insurance,” Lawrence said. “It’s just amazing.”

There will be interpreting services available, mainly in Spanish, he said. There will be documentation in both English and Spanish.

There will be public service announcements advertising the RAM clinic on local radio and Morristown Utilities will print an announcement of the clinic in their March water, telephone and internet bills. There will be 200 yard signs advertising the event.

Other RAM events have taken place in Wise, Virginia, Bristol, Knoxville and at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate.

“I went to the RAM event at LMU this summer,” Lawrence said. “You want to talk about heartwarming, people had been in the parking lot since Thursday or Friday and they have antsy kids. They’re there to have three teeth extracted and they’re happy! They’re going to feel better. The volunteers I’ve met are super people.”

In addition to Lawrence, members of the community host group include Chairman John Vasquez, Elizabeth Essary, Greg Oparyk, Veronica Galvan, Brenda Robbins, Lynn Hamer, John Seals, Ashley Hux, Kay Senter, Renee McGarel, Jake Stokely and Noel Montepeque.

March is the time to start getting the word out to patients, Lawrence said.

“Certainly now, put it on the calendar, but right now, we’re still looking for $20,000 in contributions and a lot more professional volunteers, any vision professionals. A month before the clinic, RAM will look to see who’s volunteered. They are hoping to do mental health screenings, limited laboratory, and some podiatry services.

“There will also be referrals to local doctors if needed,” Lawrence said.

For more information or to donate, call 423-250-3900.

To volunteer, email