Friday, December 05, 2014

"Remote Area Medical" documents medical and dental volunteerism in the southern Applachians

Remote Area Medical” presents a visiting clinic (RAM, or the “Remote Area Medical Vounteer Corps” (link ) set up in the Speedway in Bristol, TN, to treat indigent people in this rural area of southern Appalachia. It was set up by Stan Block in 1985, originally in the Amazon.  The documentary is directed by Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman.  The acronym also means "Reach Across America". 
The organization typically works in states that allow doctors from other states to work for free without licenses in that state.  It’s useful to be near a state line, since Bristol also goes into Virginia. 
 The service is hard to set up in a state that doesn’t accept the Medicaid extension in Obamacare, but Tennessee has an unusual provision.
While the doctors and dentists come from other states (especially New York), the event is organized and run by volunteers in the community.  The ability to find the volunteers is remarkable.  This is rural health care, and people in these areas “take care of their own.”  They tend to vote Republican despite the GOP opposition to Obamacare. Is there potential moral pressure on me to become involved in something like this for a week, maybe?
The film focuses particularly on dental and vision patients.   The film has two different graphic sequences showing tooth extraction, and even the manufacture of removable dentures in a mobile lab in the stadium. As shown in my own picture above, I had implants and permanent dentures, and was much more fortunate in the ability to have them paid for (by an estate) than are the patients in this film.  So there seem to be fairness questions. But like isn't fair, is it.

Many of the patients smoke heavily, and a few patients in the film show early signs of lung cancer on Xrays. Almost all patients are white.
I saw the film and QA in the West End Cinema in Washington DC.
The official Facebook site is here (Cinedigm and Docurama)

Wikipedia attribution link for Bristol VA-TN picture here. My most recent visit occurred in 2013, returning from Oak Ridge, but I stayed there one night in July 2005.  

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