More volunteer Manatee and Sarasota dentists, eye doctors, physicians, dental hygienists, vision techs and nurses are needed to treat the number of patients expected this November when free services are offered to the public on a unique non-discriminatory first-come, first-served basis.
After last year’s first ever Remote Area Medical clinic in Manatee County drew 1,128 patients to Manatee Technical College, RAM returns to the college on State Road 70 this year Nov. 11-13, and 2,000 needy patients desiring free services are expected, Lori Dengler, the volunteer chairperson for RAM, said Tuesday.
“The number of patients RAM can serve is based solely on the number of volunteers recruited,” Dengler said. “So we are really trying diligently to recruit dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, optometrists, opticians, ophthalmologists and vision techs.”
Also, volunteer animal doctors and nurses are needed as the 2016 RAM, in partnership with the local Animal Network, will also include a first-time vet clinic on Nov. 10.
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Last year, RAM-Manatee had more than 700 medical and support volunteers for the two days, but more are needed this year, Dengler added.
Med pros talk about their volunteer role
Erica Humbert, a nurse practitioner, volunteered last year and came away changed, she said.
“As much as I witnessed things that made me humbled or sad, all around me, I witnessed people who inspired me,” Humbert wrote to RAM officials after the event. “There was a physician who planted himself in a make-shift procedure area at the back of the room and drained abscesses and removed cysts all day without taking a lunch break. I saw several providers take 45 minutes to an hour with a single patient, just talking with them. Everywhere I looked, volunteers and patients treated each other with kindness and mutual respect. Despite long lines and tough working conditions, I never once saw anyone raise their voice or get annoyed. All around me, although I saw endless need, I also found endless reasons to be energized and inspired.”
Dr. Joshua Mali is a retina surgeon at The Eye Associates and he has thrown his support to RAM. Mali a long record of volunteerism, beginning with going to Nicaragua with Health for Humanity when he was just 14.
The Eye Associates played a huge role in the RAM clinic last year, Dengler said.
“Not only did they provide volunteers, but much needed equipment,” Dengler said. “They were integral to the success of the clinic. Dr. Mali has a huge heart for medical outreach work. It is awesome to see.”
“I think that every professional and support volunteer who volunteered last year caught my heart,” Dengler added. “Everyone just chipped in. It was incredible teamwork by all.”
In addition to the medical volunteers, general support volunteers are needed, Dengler said.
“Without general support volunteers we couldn’t have a RAM clinic,” Dengler said. “I often get the question, ‘If I am not vision, dental or medical what can I do?’ There are so many opportunities. We need interpreters. We need people to help serve food, to register people, to escort patients from station to station. One of our star volunteers last year decided his role would be to make sure all the trash was being picked up and water was served to all the professional volunteers. So, there are many, many roles.”
They start to come the day before
Last year, patients began arriving the day before the event to get tickets, which are given out at 3 a.m. the mornings of the event on a first-come, first-served basis. The patient with the first ticket is seen at 6 a.m. each day.
Dental and vision were by far the biggest components of RAM last year, so dentists and eye doctors and their supporting crew are of crucial need, Dengler said.
“People don’t have access to dental care if they don’t have insurance or if the have insurance but can’t afford to pay the co-payments, “ Dengler said. “And sometimes their dental insurance may cover a portion but if they need to get a tooth extracted or more work like that it is often more than they can afford. And the same with vision. Last year we even had patients on Medicare who could get their vision exams but they couldn’t afford to get their eyeglasses and so they were able to bring their prescriptions to RAM and get their eyeglasses.”
Free dental services include one cleaning, filling or extraction per visit.
“If they need more than one service they can come a second day and get a second service,” Dengler said.
For vision, patients get complete eye exams with an eyeglass prescription if needed, Dengler added.
Medical professionals or anyone from the public who wishes to volunteer at RAM 2016 is asked to call 941-526-4766 or enroll at ramusa.org/volunteer.