By Amanda Joerndt
Teeth cleanings and extractions, audiology screenings, eye exams and on-site optical lens creation were only a small portion of the services offered at the Remote Area Medical, also known as RAM, health care clinics at the Covelli Centre Sept. 21 and Sept. 22.
RAM, a nonprofit with a mission “to prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing free quality healthcare to those in need,” travels across the United States to service residents living in “health-deserted” regions.
Since its establishment in 1985, RAM made its first stop in Youngstown to service residents with various on-site medical, dental, vision and hearing resources.
Over 45,000 patients were treated in 2018 with a total value of $15,386,013 in free care provided.
Jeff Eastman, chief executive officer for RAM, said the organization was made aware of the health care needs in Youngstown by a group of concerned residents at a clinic held in Ashtabula, Ohio.
“It’s really working when those great leaders in the community come together just like here in Youngstown saying, ‘We got a passion and a team. We need somebody to bring the equipment,’ and that’s what we do,” Eastman said. “We bring the infrastructure so those great volunteers come, show up and do good work.”
Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown met the RAM team and greeted the residents receiving free health care.
Brown said having RAM make a stop in the city of Youngstown gives residents an opportunity to take care of any personal health care needs, regardless of financial struggles.
“When the people are healthy, the community will thrive as well,” Brown said. “Finding out where individuals are on their health chart is good, but if they have health concerns or issues that need to be taken care of, this is an opportunity for them to have those addressed right here.”
According to Brown, WRTA offered free bus transportation to ensure residents in the area were able to use the health care resources.
“I think the volunteers and those who have been organizing this were thinking of what’s the barriers for individuals to come, and if I can’t get transportation to it, I can’t go,” Brown said. “So we’ve removed that barrier, and they can have access to this health clinic.”
Kasey Hood, a senior dental hygiene major, volunteered at RAM on Sept. 21 to represent Youngstown State University’s dental hygiene clinic.
“A lot of people can’t afford dental insurance, so they don’t even have a dentist that they see regularly,” Hood said. “Stuff like this allows people to just come in for no charge, and they don’t even ask background information. They get the procedures that they need done.”
Hood said being able to volunteer and work on patients outside of the classroom helps her prepare for future patient scenarios.
Jesse Ruiz, a Girard resident, said he initially planned on getting a new pair of glasses but walked out with glasses and a teeth cleaning from the dental department, taking advantage of the services offered.
“I think everyone here gave me better medical treatment and service then I’ve ever had to pay for,” Ruiz said. “The people that are working here today are working here because they love what they do and want to help people, out and that’s their only agenda.”
Ruiz hopes that RAM will bring clinics back to Youngstown each year.
“I’m really hoping they can stop here every year if they’re able to find volunteers to do so,” Ruiz said.