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The RAM volunteer corps helps the needy access affordable medical care



You think your waiting room is busy?

Starting at 6 a.m. on July 9, Remote Area Medical (RAM) and volunteer medical professionals will attempt to see more than 2,000 new patients for free medical care " including general, dental, vision and select women's services " at State Fair Park in the Travel and Transportation Building. The event lasts through the weekend, ending July 11.

This free event came about after local supporters, like Delta Dental of Oklahoma Charitable Foundation, the Whitten-Newman Foundation, Variety Care and the Oklahoma City Hotel Association, helped form RAM Oklahoma as main sponsors last year.

Based in Tennessee, RAM, which stands for Remote Area Medical, was founded in 1985 to airdrop medical relief to areas of Central and South America by adventurer Stan Brock. Starting in 1994, the efforts came stateside.

Tres Savage, RAM Oklahoma's president, hopes the July event will allow the organization to grow and serve the state in future events and eventually include rural areas.

With the upcoming event, RAM hopes to connect uninsured or underinsured Oklahomans with free or reduced permanent health care options, such as free or reduced cost clinics, or Insure Oklahoma and Medicaid, if they qualify.

Those seeking care will be asked to take a number to receive one type of care per day. Patients will have their blood pressure and heart rate taken and can receive free glasses (the frames are be donated by Walmart) as well as have their teeth cleaned or filled.

Dr. Amal Moorad, acting director of the Integris Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital and an internal medicine and pain management specialist, has volunteered in Africa for the past two years, but he said there are also people in need of care locally.

"It's important to do things at home where the need is also great," Moorad said. "It's an amazing opportunity for people who aren't able to go to the doctor. That's why I'm compelled to volunteer and asking my colleagues to come help us."

Moorad will be a first-time volunteer with RAM, along with Angela Craig, past president and current Oklahoma County trustee of the Oklahoma Dental Hygienists' Association (OKDHA).

"I have told many people that it (is) such a humbling experience to realize that people are waiting in line for services that you can provide," Craig said, who has also volunteered with the Mission of Mercy dental services. She hopes OKDHA will be able to work with RAM on future events.

"This RAM clinic is not an answer to the access-to-care problem, but it is a small beginning," Craig said, underscoring RAM's goal of being a starting point for people to find permanent health options.

"The unfortunate truth is, we can't do everybody," Savage said. "It's a drop in the bucket. It's a giant access point. But people walk away with a better understanding of what is a complicated system."

That's where clinics such as Lou Carmichael's Variety Care come in. After patients receive their care at the RAM event, they will be connected with resources to continue to receive the medical care they need in their area of the state.

"We believe in a medical home model, which means we believe patients should have a doctor, a primary care physician that takes care of their general overall health," Carmichael said, who serves as Variety Care's CEO. "We're able to provide that at a very affordable cost, particularly to people who don't have health insurance, who can qualify based on their income or a sliding fee."

Savage is asking health professionals or qualified students, especially in dental and vision-related specialties, to visit to sign up and volunteer. Professionals licensed in other states can also apply for a volunteer license on RAM's website.

RAM also needs donations for items such as water, sunscreen, copy machines, exam table paper, as well as meal sponsors. "Sarah Clough Chambers

Federally qualified health centers in the Oklahoma City Metro Area:

Variety Care, downtown
420 N.W. Sixth

Variety Care, south
1025 Straka Terrace

Variety Care, southwest
500 S.W. 44th

Variety Care, northwest
4023 N.W. 10th

Variety Care, Del City
3851 Tinker Diagonal

Mary Mahoney Memorial Health Center
12716 N.E. 36th, Spencer

Mary Mahoney at Langston
300 Martin Luther King, Langston

Perry A. Klaassen Family Medical Center
201 N.E. 48th

above Dr. Amal Moorad of Integris' Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Hospital. Photo/Mark Hancock

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