PIKEVILLE, Ky.— The 2009 Pike County Remote Area Medical® (RAM) Expedition will take place Saturday and Sunday, June 27 and 28, at Pike County Central High School. Members of the 2009 Pike County RAM Committee have been busy preparing for the event, which promises to be even bigger and better than last year’s Pike County Expedition.
“We are very excited about this year’s RAM expedition. The RAM Committee has been working very hard, and things appear to be falling into place,” said Pike County Social Services Commissioner Carol Napier.
The event is Pike County’s second RAM expedition. The organization was brought to the county by Judge/Executive Wayne T. Rutherford.
After exploring a RAM expedition in Wise, Virginia, Judge Rutherford asked RAM’s founder, Stan Brock, to hold an expedition in Pike, to bring free healthcare services to residents of Eastern Kentucky. Brock achieved fame in the 1970s as a co-host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom television series, and began RAM in 1985, originally to provide healthcare services to natives of Guyana and other third world countries.
After realizing that many people in America also needed access to healthcare, Brock formed a division of RAM called Rural AMerica. Through this division, he began organizing expeditions in rural portions of Tennessee, Virginia, and now Kentucky.
With the help of Brock’s organization and many businesses, hospitals, schools, universities. non-profit associations and volunteers, Pike County Social Services Commissioner Carol Napier coordinated the 2008 Pike County RAM Expedition, which took place last June at Pike County Central High School. The event provided 624 Eastern Kentucky residents with healthcare services valued at more than $124,000, and was probably the largest free healthcare clinic in Kentucky’s history.
The accomplishments made by last year’s RAM expedition continued long after the event concluded. It spawned several initiatives aimed at increasing access to healthcare for the working poor. It led to the formation of a statewide RAM organization known as RAM Kentucky to oversee future RAM events throughout the state. William Collins, D.M.D., the dental coordinator of the 2008 Pike County RAM Expedition, was made chairman of the organization, which has already overseen a RAM expedition in Knott County, and will oversee an expedition in Letcher County on September 26 and 27.
Because of the large demand for dentures during last year’s RAM expedition, the Pike County Health Department began allocating funding to help cover the cost of dentures for low-income citizens. Last year’s Pike County RAM Expedition also led to actions taken by the Kentucky Board of Optometry to allow optometrists to participate in future RAM events. A final initiative arising from last year’s RAM expedition is a new law that will allow out-of-state doctors to volunteer in RAM expeditions.
The 2009 Pike County RAM Expedition will assuredly profit from the great success of last year’s expedition, and the initiatives it generated. Commissioner Napier is once again the main coordinator of the event, and she is receiving assistance from a medley of organizations and RAM committee members.
“I am so pleased that Brock and his team of RAM volunteers chose Pike County as the place to conduct their first Kentucky RAM expedition. The event helped so many people in our area receive healthcare services, and we are so excited that RAM is coming again to Pike to conduct a second expedition. These events take the hard work and diligence of so many people, even beyond those directly involved in the RAM organization. If it were not for Social Services Commissioner Carol Napier and the industrious members of the RAM Committee, the events would not be possible,” said Judge Wayne T. Rutherford.
Dr. Collins, who is co-coordinating the dental component of this year’s expedition along with Greg Bentley, D.M.D., said he expects the dental component of this year’s event to grow considerably. He said the University of Louisville is planning to bring more staff and dental students than last year, and more local and regional dentists have signed on to help, as well.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we had 200 dentists show up for this event,” Collins told RAM Committee members at a recent meeting.
Dr. Collins added that his estimate did not include the large number of dental hygienists and non-professional volunteers that have also signed on to help. He said that because the number of dentists expected for the event is roughly twice the number of dental chairs that will be available, he and Dr. Bentley are considering running this year’s dental clinic non-stop, by dividing dentists into daytime and nighttime shifts. Collins also added that he and Bentley are trying to secure x-ray machines for this year’s dental clinic, equipment which was unavailable last year.
The coordinators of the medical component for the upcoming Pike County RAM Expedition are Randy Litman, D.O., associate dean for clinical sciences at Pikeville College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCSOM), and Bill Harris, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Pikeville Medical Center.
“RAM is such a great event. This year, we are hoping to make it even better by expanding the medical clinic,” Dr. Harris said.
According to Dr. Litman, many of PCSOM’s staff members and third year medical students will be volunteering for the event, and they and the rest of the medical volunteers will triage participants waiting to receive dental services. He said triaging the dental participants will accomplish two things: it will ensure that those waiting to receive dental services are healthy enough to undergo the procedures, and it will allow patients to be examined for major medical problems such as heart disease, lung disease, obesity and diabetes. He said medical clinic participants will receive advice against risk factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, and that he is working to secure participation from area podiatrists to evaluate and address diabetic foot care.
Dr. Litman said PCSOM third and fourth year medical students will be working along with the other medical volunteers, which will give them a chance to serve their community while they exercise their skills. “PCSOM students that participate in RAM aim to detect preventable disease and provide a direction for people to seek healthy lifestyles,” he said.
Dr. Harris said the medical clinic will offer cardiovascular, blood pressure and diabetes screenings, and that PMC is working to put together a formulary to provide participants with 30-day supplies for ailments like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Clinic participants will be given a list of area doctors and medical facilities where they can go to receive follow-up care. Highlands Regional Hospital will also be working in the medical clinic to perform lab testing and provide participants with general health information.
Sharon Turk, PCSOM director of Continuing Medical Education and Telemedicine and Clinical Rotations Records Officer, is a member of the RAM Committee who also helped with last year’s Pike County expedition. This year, she is not only helping with the medical component of expedition, but is also coordinating publicity for the event. “The Pikeville School of Osteopathic Medicine is proud to be a part of the Pike County RAM Expedition. We had many students who participated last year and many more who will sign up to participate this year following a presentation of RAM at this week’s class on Current Issues in Medicine,” she said.
“RAM gives the students a chance to practice what they’ve learned and give back to this community. This is my fourth expedition and I was extremely pleased when I learned of last year’s RAM expedition in Pike County. These RAM expeditions provide such a worthwhile service to this community and surrounding communities, and it is sincerely an honor to participate,” Turk added.
This year’s vision coordinators are optometrists Todd Maynard, O.D., and Bill Webb, O.D. “There will be a vast improvement in the amount of vision services that will be available this year, thanks to the Board of Optometry’s decision to change regulations regarding optometrists,” said Dr. Maynard. He plans to recruit optometrists to the RAM Expedition at the Kentucky Board of Optometry’s summer meeting, which takes place this weekend, April 25 and 26.
Only two eye doctors participated in last year’s expedition, which extremely limited the number of participants who received eye exams. Dr. Maynard said he expects the number of participants who will be able to receive eye exams at this year’s expedition could multiply significantly.
A non-healthcare component of the upcoming RAM expedition that the RAM Committee is working to tackle is the funding necessary to produce the event. Last year’s Pike County RAM Expedition cost approximately $10,000, which is a small price tag compared to the more than $124,000 of healthcare services that Eastern Kentucky residents gained in return. This year’s expedition will cost no less than last year’s, and the RAM Committee is searching for donors. All donations are tax deductible and extremely appreciated.
In addition to donations, the RAM Committee is also searching for volunteers. Last year, 476 people volunteered their time for RAM, and the committee is hoping to see just as many volunteers at this year’s expedition. Anyone wishing to volunteer, donate, or learn more about the 2009 Pike County RAM Expedition, may contact the Pike County Social Services Department at (606) 432-6246.