RAM clinic returning to Wise on July 21-23 with free dental, medical and eye care

By Zach Irby Bristol Hearold Courier

BRISTOL, Va. — The Wise County Fairgrounds will soon be transformed into a Remote Area Medical clinic that is expected to provide free medical, dental and vision care to thousands over three days.

Those who are underserved and uninsured will begin lining up hours before the gates open at 6 a.m. on July 21, with hopes of being assigned a number for services. Tickets will be handed out beginning at 3 a.m. on Friday morning, with gates opening at 6 a.m. On Saturday and Sunday, tickets will be passed out starting at 2 p.m. in the afternoon.

The free services include dental cleanings, fillings and extractions, eye exams and free eyeglasses, diabetic screenings, physicals and women’s services, including mammograms.

The clinic is organized by the Central Appalachia Health Wagon and is a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization. The number of people who are served during the event is connected to the number of medical professionals who volunteer their time, according to Health Wagon officials.

“With health care in the state that it’s in now, this clinic is needed more than ever,” said Dr. Teresa Tyson, executive director of The Health Wagon. “Our area was hit hard economically with the coal mining layoffs, and people still don’t have access to quality health care either.”

Tyson expects 2,500 to 3,000 people to be treated over the three days of the clinic.

RAM first came to the Mountain Empire nearly two decades ago and has grown through the years, according to Tyson, who said 1,700 tickets will be handed out on the first day of the clinic. She said a lot of planning during the year goes into making the clinic a success each year.

“We’re always looking for different resources to give our patients,” Tyson said. “We plan for this event, and our staff really does go beyond the call of duty to make it successful every year.”

Proof of residency or proof of income is not required to attend the clinic, but Tyson said people need to bring all medications and take them the day they are treated.

While dental and vision care have been two of the most sought-after services, Tyson said she wants the public to know about some of the specialty services offered in recent years.

“A lot of people will come in for eye and dental care, but we also have hearing aids, X-rays and other services available,” Tyson said. “Every year, we find brain tumors and have people who come in that don’t know they have lung cancer that can really jeopardize their health.”

To make the clinic run smoothly, it takes an army of volunteers with diverse backgrounds and interests, but Tyson said they are in need of a certain type of volunteers this year.

“We especially need volunteers before and after the event,” Tyson said. “We have a team of physicians and other medical professionals, but there is a lot of follow-up work that happens after the event is over, because half of the people we serve will need some kind of work done.”