Free medical clinic in Rhea County brings care to hundreds

Free medical clinic in Rhea County brings care to hundreds

March 11th, 2012 by Kimberly McMillian in News

Dr. Bill Childress, an East Brainerd oral surgeon, cleans Thomas Leggett's teeth, while dental assistants Ashley Sample, center, and Tammy Bryson stand by to help. Remote Area Medical clinic organizers said they distributed 500 tickets for Saturday's Remote Area Medical clinic inside the Rhea County High School gymnasium. RAM, a clinic for the uninsured, underinsured or unemployed, continues today with doors opening at 6 a.m. for the next 300 people. Photo by Kimberly McMillian

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The Remote Area Medical clinic continues today, with doors opening at 6 a.m. for the next 300 people. The next clinic will be April 13-15 in Bristol, Tenn.

EVENSVILLE, Tenn. -- For Vickie Cobble, the Remote Area Medical clinic's free dental examinations and extractions would allow her to eat without pain again.

Cobble said TennCare won't cover dental costs, and she couldn't afford to have her teeth extracted on her own. So she traveled from McMinnville, Tenn., on Friday to receive one of the 500 tickets distributed for Saturday's dental and vision clinic at Rhea County High School.

Cobble said she anticipated regaining a "sense of pride" when she isn't suffering anymore.

According to its website, RAM was founded in 1985 by Stan Brock, who had worked in the Amazon basin where the nearest medical treatment was 26 days away on foot. A letter by Brock on the site, www.ramusa.org, states that "the appearance of a RAM Team means an opportunity for poor folks to get some real treatment free of charge from real doctors and veterinarians."

Director Ron Brewer of the Knoxville-based Rural America Program said the traveling clinics have never solicited an area. "Rhea County picked us" to come and set up this weekend's clinic, Brewer said.

Christine Ralph, with Rhea County's United Way and a RAM organizer, said this is the first RAM clinic held in the county since the 1990s.

Each of the 500 patients was registered outside the gymnasium, triaged for blood pressure and pulse, and separated into dental or vision care sections based on primary needs. Vision care patients received a complete pair of glasses, if needed, from a variety of lens strengths that optometry volunteers assembled in a separate mobile unit outside.

Local dentists, assistants and volunteers participated, but many of the medical professionals had traveled from Memphis or from Northern states such as Illinois and New York to work at this weekend's free clinic, Brewer said.

Dr. Bill Childress, an East Brainerd oral surgeon, said he also participated in a Signal Mountain clinic last year because of "helping people out" and wanting to educate them about the overall impact of maintaining dental care.

Delma Shaver, a Lions Club volunteer, said that the clinic was "the biggest thing that's come to Rhea County since the Scopes [Trial]."