It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. Brilliant summer sunlight filled the clear blue skies as Dr. Koetting, myself and our fourth year extern, Elizabeth Baylor, prepared to embark on our eight-hour road trip to attend Remote Area Medical’s (RAM) largest annual event that provides free medical, dental and vision services to residents in Southwest Virginia. BIOs, various lenses and retinoscopes filled the back seat of our Jeep as we headed for the small town of Wise.
Eight hours later, we arrived at the Wise County Fairgrounds alongside hundreds of medical professionals and volunteers including: dentists, optometrists and medical specialists. It was a sight to see as over two thousand people waited in the sweltering July heat for free healthcare. Thousands slept in packed cars or tents awaiting clinic gates to open at 3:00 AM. Many had driven hours just to get there.
Upon our entry, we were led into an empty livestock barn converted into makeshift exam lanes. The patients who entered the clinic came from all walks of life, but had one thing in common: unaffordable healthcare. Over two thirds of the patients had no insurance or unaffordable insurance. Many lost coverage along with their job and could not afford to purchase their own policies. Of those who maintained coverage, high deductibles and copayments were unaffordable and prevented them from receiving proper healthcare.
For many people, RAM’s annual pop-up clinic in Wise is their one shot at receiving health care for the entire year. The work RAM does is a great example of community outreach and the organization is helping address a chronic national problem. Please visit this link if you would like to learn more about what they do.
~ Dr. Kelsey Butler, Optometric Resident, Virginia Eye Consultants
Photo: Virginia Eye Consultants‘ Extern Elizabeth Baylor, Optometric Resident Dr. Kelsey Butler and Dr. Cecelia Koetting