July 19, 2011 — Early Friday morning, hundreds of people will line up in the parking lot of the Virginia-Kentucky Fairgrounds in Wise County, anxious to see a doctor or dentist as soon as possible.
Nearby, 240 University of Virginia volunteers will wake up in dorm rooms hundreds of miles from home, eager to provide free medical care.
The event is the annual three-day Remote Area Medical Clinic in Wise, which offers free medical, dental and vision care. The Health Wagon, a nonprofit health care provider in southwest Virginia, organizes the event, and thousands of volunteers from all over Virginia make it happen.
The U.Va. Health System provides medical services at the clinic, giving patients access to specialty care and technologies normally only available at large hospitals, while volunteers from other organizations provide dental and vision care.
U.Va. volunteers usually make the six-hour drive from Charlottesville to Wise on Thursday and stay in dorms at U.Va.'s College at Wise.
The clinic will run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 6 a.m. to noon on Sunday. Patients will be seen in tents and barns with temporary partitions put up by medical volunteers.
Last year, RAM volunteers treated 2,347 patients during those 30 hours, including almost 1,300 who received medical services from U.Va. volunteers.
New this year, based on patient feedback, is a medical-only gate for patients who do not want dental or vision care. This will help them get faster treatment. U.Va. worked with the Health Wagon and the RAM organization on the change.
Also, the fairground was renovated within the past year, and all patient treatment areas are now air-conditioned. Last year, it was over 90 degrees every day, and similar temperatures are expected this weekend.
U.Va. plans to offer many medical services at RAM, including:
• Primary care/family medicine
• Specialty care, including cardiology and dermatology
• Diabetes counseling and management
• Emergency care
• Women's health, including gynecology services, breast exams and mammograms
• Plastic surgery
• Smoking cessation counseling
• Pharmacy services
• Tetanus and pneumonia vaccines
• Echocardiograms and electrocardiograms
• High blood pressure management
• Physical therapy
• Blood, urine and bone density tests
If patients need specialty care that's not at RAM, U.Va.'s telemedicine team will connect them to a specialist at U.Va. Through telemedicine, a doctor in another location uses a video camera, a monitor and an Internet connection to examine and talk to a patient.