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Volunteering is not a choice; it's a responsibility

Jan. 19, 2012
Founded in 1985, Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a publicly supported all-volunteer charitable organization. Volunteers include physicians, dentists, dental hygienists, nurses, technicians, and veterinarians. Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, explains how you can get involved to help make a difference.
By Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS
This week we celebrated Martin Luther King day, so I though it appropriate to begin with one of his quotes. “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” -- Martin Luther King Jr.
Every problem that a nation faces is being solved in some community by some group or some individual. The question is how to get connected so that the whole nation can solve problems. RAM has figured this out. The Remote Area Medical (RAM) Volunteer Corps is a non-profit, volunteer, airborne relief corps dedicated to serving mankind by providing free health care, dental care, eye care, veterinary services, and technical and educational assistance to people in remote areas of the United States and the world.(1) Founded in 1985, Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a publicly supported all-volunteer charitable organization. Volunteer doctors, nurses, pilots, veterinarians, and support workers participate in expeditions (at their own expense) in some of the world's most exciting places. Medical supplies, medicines, facilities, and vehicles are donated. The vision for RAM was developed in the Amazon rain forest where founder Stan Brock spent 15 years with the Wapishana Indians. Stan Brock is known to millions throughout the world as co-host and associate producer of NBC's "Wild Kingdom." He lived with the pain and suffering created by isolation from medical care. He witnessed the near devastation of whole tribes by what would have been simple or minor illnesses to more advanced cultures. When he left South America to co-star in the television series, "Wild Kingdom,” he vowed to find a way to deliver basic medical aid to people in the world's inaccessible regions.After years of research and planning, there is a vast, carefully developed network of men and women who have come together to make RAM a highly mobile, remarkably efficient relief force. Volunteers are physicians, dentists, dental hygienists, nurses, technicians, and veterinarians who go on expeditions at their own expense and treat hundreds of patients a day in some of the worst conditions.RAM services include: aviation; dental; medical; veterinary; and vision. Dental care is one of the core services of RAM expeditions. RAM's dental services have provided relief to thousands of patients over the years. RAM's programs include: Rural AMerica Program; Reach Across AMerica Program; Guyana Air Ambulance; Guyana Cervical Cancer Project; RAM Airborne; and Veterinary Services. There are RAM affiliates in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and California.How does one become a volunteer?
• Check the schedule for a trip for which you would be interested in volunteering. • Complete a volunteer application and mail it in to RAM Headquarters, including all licensing pertaining to your profession.(2)• Volunteers should receive an e-mail confirmation that their services are needed, along with other pertinent clinic information, within 4 weeks of the clinic you have chosen to attend. If you have not been contacted 4 weeks prior to the clinic you plan to attend, please send an e-mail to [email protected]. • Volunteers will be responsible for transportation to and from the expedition location. You will need to maintain contact with RAM volunteers to check the status of the expedition, and to acquire necessary information regarding clinic details. • If there is not a need for your skills or if there is not space available on a particular expedition, please check back again. We have expeditions year round. RAM needs dentists on all of their expeditions, both domestic and abroad, unless otherwise specified. Qualifications for health care practitioners wishing to volunteer include having a current, valid license. For U.S. expeditions, you must be licensed in the United States. Working conditions are often harsh. Volunteers should plan to wear comfortable shoes, and general sleeping quarters and bathing can be minimally comfortable, at best. General sleeping quarters can be your tent, bathing can be the closest river, and food is minimal and usually bad. Situations are somewhat more hospitable for U.S. expeditions. Volunteers are responsible for their own travel and accommodations. Occasionally, local host communities may provide discounts for RAM Volunteers. Food is usually provided, and for domestic expeditions, meals are provided on-site. Check with RAM Headquarters before making travel plans. You may contact [email protected] with questions regarding specific expeditions.Vital to the services provided are the professionals who volunteer. Nurses, paramedics, and EMTs are always needed to triage the patients. Dentists, dental technicians, and dental hygienists are core to providing oral health services. Ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians, and optical lab technicians make the vision services function. Medical doctors serve patients at many expeditions, and audiologists, podiatrists, and massage therapists have volunteered at various expeditions. Over the years, over 59,000 volunteers have participated in RAM expeditions and activities.Throughout 2010, donor and volunteer efforts have enabled RAM to deliver free medical, dental, and vision care to thousands of medically underserved individuals and domestically, their pets. Statistics for international expeditions and veterinary expeditions will be forthcoming. Dental volunteers made it possible for 13,240 dental patients to receive: 10,515 fillings; 3,162 cleanings; and 21,190 extractions.RAM was featured in CBS’s 60 minutes.(3,4)To view a brochure about RAM, go to California (CA), with the aid of California communities and volunteers throughout the state, will help to expand upon the work of Stan Brock and the Remote Area Medical Foundation.(5) Part of RAM's mission is to provide free health care, dental care, veterinary and eye care to people in remote areas of the United States and the world. RAM CA is expanding on this concept by focusing on a much smaller subset, the residents of California. The California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (CALAOMS) is generously donating office space to RAM California. The CALAOMS was host to the RAM CA 2011 expeditions. These two highly successful clinics treated 6,569 patients. The success of these expeditions led to the formation of RAM California as an official affiliate of RAM USA. The California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons along with the TZU Chi Foundation will again be hosting the Spring 2012 RAM CA expeditions.
Please see the letter of invitation from Cathy DiFrancesco, RDH, Michael Long, RDH, and Heidi Christopher, RDH, Hygiene Coordinators of RAM 2012 in California at letter. Thank you Cathy, Michael, and Heidi!“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and help them become what they are capable of being.” -- GoetheReferences
1. 3. Remote Area Medical - part 1.4. Remote Area Medical - part 2.5.

Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

To read previous articles in RDH eVillage FOCUS written by Maria Perno Goldie, go to articles.