Remote Area Medical: Much To Be Thankful For

It’s symptomatic of our times: medical coverage in America is so variable that around 11% of Americans have no medical coverage at all, and about a third struggle to pay for basic dental care. Of course, you can’t go to the emergency room to get your teeth fixed, so dental problems among the poor are typically neglected until they become chronic and intolerably painful.

This can lead to desperate measures. In an interview with the Nation, Caleb described how he decided to forego professional care for his dental troubles, and paid the price: using a pair of pliers, he once crushed a tooth he was attempting to remove. This left him with a stump jutting from his jaw, a painful ordeal to say the least. Each year, countless people like Caleb suffer often irreparable damage because they take their care into their own hands, or simply lack the means for care. In one tragic case, a 12-year-old Maryland boy died from an infected tooth that would have cost $80 to pull.


A Remote Area Medical clinic at L.A. Sports Arena incorporating UCLA volunteers. | Photo: UCLA Newsroom

Fortunately, a group of remarkable medical professionals is taking steps to close this gap. Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a non-profit, volunteer medical relief organization that runs free mobile medical clinics in underserved, often impoverished communities. Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, RAM provides medical, dental, and eye care completely free of charge, and their clinics are drawing thousands.

Founded in 1985 by Stan Brock, the group’s work was originally focused on third world countries, but soon shifted to the U.S. As he explained it to the New York Times, the need simply became evident: one day he received a call from Tennessee, in a town where the local hospital had closed and the dentist had departed. The caller had one question: “Can you come here?”

Come he did, and the response was such that it changed his entire business: while RAM does continue to do international work, they’ve become a major player right here in the United States. Dedicated medical professionals of all kinds travel from all over the country, devoting their time to simply care for the uncared for. While some may decry the need for these services in the U.S., political realities change slowly, and we’re truly fortunate to have organizations like RAM. Stopgap solutions are better than none at all, and the volunteers at RAM are a rare cause for hope in the health arena.

Both Caleb and Daniel Smith are examples of people who have fallen through the cracks of our healthcare system, and now receive care from the volunteers at RAM. A contractor, Smith has no health or dental insurance, and hasn’t seen a dentist in over 20 years. “I’ve always worked, since I was 14, but I’ve never had dental insurance,” Smith told the Times. He is looking forward to an end to the tooth pain he has long suffered, and the people at RAM even set him up with a plan for low-cost dentures.

“I’d like to have a straight smile,” Smith said. “I’ve never had one in my life.”

To volunteer or find out more about Remote Area Medical, visit their website here. We’ll be back soon with more good news. In the meanwhile, enjoy a peaceful and Happy Thanksgiving!


A 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization

Federal Identification Number (EIN): 46-3416157

P.O. Box 6654
San Rafael, CA 94903