For the first time, Remote Area Medical (RAM) has arrived in New York State to set-up one of
the non-profit’s free medical, dental and eye care clinics.
The location is the Reilly Center on the campus of St. Bonaventure University. Friday, volunteers
were busy covering the parquet basketball floor with treatment set-ups, dentists' chairs and lots
“This project is focused on people who are in areas that can’t get regular care and can’t afford
care, or there’s no access because there aren’t dentists or medical facilities around,”
says Lackawanna dentist Kevin D’Angelo.
That’s certainly the case in the Southern Tier. Much of it is designated by the federal
government as a “healthcare provider shortage area”. The region needs more family
practitioners, dentists and mental health professionals.
At RAM clinics, everything is free.
Joshua Weaver, volunteer manager for the organization says: “We can see 500 patients in a day
easily. We’re happy to see everyone. We don’t ask any sort of insurance or I-D questions. All of
our services are completely free. We see people from all walks of life.”
Largely, the patients they see live in rural areas and are poor. Often, they either cannot find
medical care, or simply cannot afford to see a physician. So, medical issues, even serious ones,
can go untreated until they get an opportunity like a RAM clinic.
“I go in these areas and they all have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and
just about everybody has a full mouth of rotten teeth. It’s very common in these areas we go to,”
D’Angelo has been traveling to RAM clinics all around the country for 15 years and he was the
driving force in getting RAM to come to New York. He says he had to virtually guarantee there
were enough doctors and dentists to cover the hundreds of patients expected over the
weekend. A staple of these clinics are volunteer medical professionals from different states. But
New York law does not permit practitioners to see patients without a state license. As a result,
RAM is still scrambling to find in-state volunteers.
Weaver says: "For triage nurses, we could probably use an additional 20 nurses or so. For
opticians, we’d be happy to have two or three more. That’s our greatest need at the moment.”
While RAM’s hoping for some last-minute in-state volunteers, here’s how you can gain access
to the Olean clinic this weekend.
Tickets, both Saturday and Sunday, are handed out starting at
3 am. It is not unusual at a RAM clinic for patients to stand in line overnight.
Doors open at 6 am. Patients are registered and then assessed based on medical need. From
there, they will sit in the bleachers at the Reilly Center until it is their turn to be seen.
Dentists and students from the U.B. Dental School handle the dental patients. Doctors will be
on-hand for medical issues. For those with vision issues, a converted trailer is outside the
arena. Inside is equipment to grind lenses for new glasses. And all of it -- medical care, dental work,
new glasses -- is free.