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The Remote Area Medical® Volunteer Corps Sets Up Mobile Medical Unit to Serve Uninsured in the US

Theresa BrownGold's painting "Remote Area Medical" for her art project, Art As Social Inquiry.

(2011 visit to a Remote Area Medical® pop-up clinic. Oil on canvas, 35 ins. x 48 ins.)

Update 2021

Stan Brock founded Remote Area Medical®(RAM). He died August 29, 2018 from complications of a stroke. He was 82 years old. RIP, dear friend. Thanks for everything. We love you.

Stan Brock. Photo Credit: RAM website

The Affordable Care Act gave many millions access to healthcare but not all. Many millions more are still uninsured. RAM's mission to set up free pop-up clinics wherever needed including in the United States continues today.

On RAM's website they say, "Our mission is to prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing free, quality healthcare to those in need. "

I mingled with the crowd. I spoke to a 74-year-old man whose ride did not show up. He walked 15 miles in the dark, early morning hours to get to event. He had been without glasses for 2 years.

RAM's very existence and the free medical services they provide beg a bigger question. Why does one of the most advanced and wealthiest nations in the world need pop-up clinics in high schools and fairgrounds to deliver free healthcare to its citizens?

Artist Note (from 2011 visit)

On Friday evening February 18, 2011 starting at 5PM , people needing medical/dental/vision/women''s healthcare started lining up in a Nashville high school parking lot. They were preparing to sleep in their cars. They wanted to be first in line to receive health services the following day at a pop-up free clinic in a local high school.

The RAM organizers allowed me to talk to and take pictures of the volunteers and patients. I was doing research for this Art As Social Inquiry painting for the Healthcare in the US series. I agreed to respect everyone's privacy by not including their faces in my painting.

I mingled with the crowd. I spoke to a 74-year-old man whose ride did not show up. He walked 15 miles in the dark, early morning hours to get to event. He had been without glasses for 2 years.

Stan Brock founded Remote Area Medical® (RAM) in order to deliver medical aid to people living in the remotest regions of the world. RAM's mission has been expanded to include under-served populations of the United States.

At 3:30 AM the RAM volunteers gave out numbered tickets to people waiting in line. Some had slept in their cars so they could be first to get a ticket at 3AM. The tickets marked the patients places in line for when the high school doors opened at 6 AM.

The temperature at 3:30 AM was 46° F; at 6 AM the temperature was 43°F. People wore coats and many wrapped themselves in blankets as they waited in the parking lot for the doors to open. People filed into the high school when their numbers were called. The volunteer staff registered them and sent the patients to triage. At triage, patients were sorted by needed services and directed to areas of the high school where mobile medical, dental, vision and women's health service areas were set-up.

Final stats for RAM Clinic #332 Nashville TN (2/19/11 - 2/20/11): General Medical 505, Vision- Eye exam only 37, Eye exam with glasses 306, other vision 60,- Dental--1335 extractions, 371 fillings, 188 cleanings, exam only 62:----Total patients registered 1303. % of Children 2.3%, Total services rendered 1751, Total # of volunteers 394, TOTAL VALUE OF CARE-$368,631.00


RAM was originally started to serve remote areas in British Guiana and then expanded to the United States in 1992, starting out with a single pickup truck that hauled a single dentist’s chair. Today RAM often serves the uninsured and under-insured in the United States.

Mobile Clinic hauled in. How the painting started. Make-shift exam rooms.


Here are my notes from the event.


~ Arrived at 2:30 PM set up the day before the event. The RAM crew unloaded medical equipment from a large tractor-trailer and set up medical, dental, vision and women's health units in various parts of the high school.

~ At 5 PM, a woman approached me to ask where she should go for the free medical treatment the following day.

~ At 7:30 PM another woman approached me about where to line up. I said, "Around the side. You might be one of the first in line." She sped across the parking lot. She was planning to camp overnight in her car.


~ Numbers were given out at 3:30 AM.; at 6 AM numbers were called for entry into high school gym where about 40 volunteers registered patients. Nurses then conducted medical interviews and sent patients to wait in lines at the medical, dental, vision or women's health stations.

~ Women's health performed breast exams, gave pap smears and taught breast self-examinations.

~ I mingled with the crowd. I spoke to a 74-year-old man whose ride did not show up. He walked 15 miles in the dark, early morning hours to get to event. He had been without glasses for 2 years.

~ A woman in a wheelchair, wheeled in by her daughter, was being treated for hypertension.

~ An uninsured woman in her mid-thirties lost her job. She has lupus and wants to been seen by a doctor.

~ Many people had to choose just two services so the RAM volunteers could see as many people as possible. Medical and dental, medical and vision, etc. Patients told me they chose by determining what would cost the most if they had to pay out of pocket.

~ A slim, well-groomed uninsured woman, a caregiver, was waiting in line for a dental cleaning. She confided that she felt something was wrong with her heart at age 55. Wondered if she's experiencing symptoms of menopause.

~ After I finished taking pictures, I became a place-in-line-holder. A patient who was being seen at medical could have her place held in line at dental by a volunteer, for example.

~ As a placeholder I was sitting next to young woman who was waiting for dental care. She was almost 30. Cancer forced her to have a hysterectomy at 24. She had not had any follow-up care because she was uninsured. She did not realize she could have dental AND medical. RAM staff found a placeholder for her at dental while she went to women's health for her first check-up six years after the hysterectomy.

~ I was sitting as a placeholder again next to a young man who was waiting in the dental line. He was feeling very nervous about the results of his AIDS test administered that afternoon. He would have the results in 20 mins. He wanted the peace of mind. (I did not see him again and do not know the results.)


Many people were turned away at the door because operations ended early. The cleaning crew needed enough time to ready the building for school the next day.


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