U.Va. Volunteers Bring Vital, Free Medical Care to Southwest Virginia

July 18, 2007 -- Thousands of people from Southwest Virginia and neighboring states are expected to line up before dawn for free health care this week. Many of them lack health insurance, and for many it will be their only visit to a doctor or dentist this year.

Dozens of physicians, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, emergency medical technicians and other employees and affiliates of the University of Virginia Health System will spend three days as volunteers, providing free medical services to an expected 3,000 people at the Virginia-Kentucky Fairgrounds in Wise, Virginia.

The event is the 8th annual Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinic, which will be open Friday, July 20, through Sunday, July 22, at the Fairgrounds. The hours will be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 6 a.m. to noon on Sunday.

The stream of people seeking care at this clinic - one of the nation's largest public health outreach efforts - illustrates the problem of access to affordable health care for those who have no insurance or are under-insured.  The geographic isolation of the area continues to be a major barrier to having ongoing medical care available.

Gov. Tim Kaine plans to attend this clinic on the opening day, Friday, July 20. R. Edward Howell, vice president and CEO of UVa Medical Center, will be volunteering on July 20.  

This year, U.Va. staff will offer digital mammography, neurological screening, colon cancer screening, ENT services and audiology, gynecological procedures, and comprehensive screening for diabetes and hypertension. U.Va. will also have physicians on call for telemedicine appointments, a two-way remote method for consulting in real-time on a variety of medical conditions.

Many different people work to bring this complex event to the Wise location. The nurses in the medical services area work hard to triage, treat and consult with hundreds of patients each day of the clinic. "It is a privilege to be able to provide a range of services to families and individuals who come for their physical exams and need further care," says Audrey Snyder, R.N., a vital member of the U.Va. team and longtime RAM volunteer. "My hope is that someday these services will be accessible and affordable to patients in their own communities."

The U.Va. Medical Center team will be joining other volunteers from the Remote Area Medical Corp., several Lions Clubs, the Virginia Dental Association, St. Mary's Health Wagon, the Leonwisco Health District, Logisticare and others.

The RAM Clinic at Wise has been held since 1999, when Sister Bernie Kenny, a Catholic nun and family nurse practitioner, started it. If you would like to cover this event, please contact the U.Va. Health System Public Relations office at 434-982-4490 in advance.