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U.Va. Remote Area Medical chapter focuses on increasing healthcare access

Students in RAM are hosting their second free clinic this April

<p>This semester, the University chapter participated in events in Knoxville, Tenn. and Largo, Md. in addition to three Virginia locations.</p>

This semester, the University chapter participated in events in Knoxville, Tenn. and Largo, Md. in addition to three Virginia locations.

Remote Area Medical at U.Va. is a college chapter of a national organization with the primary mission of reducing pain and alleviating suffering. The University's chapter of RAM assists with free clinics in the central Virginia area and has recently started hosting their own clinics as well, with a clinic in Fishersville planned for this April. 

RAM at U.Va. members volunteer at pop-up clinics across the Southeast to provide free medical, visual and dental services to those in need. This semester, the University chapter participated in events in Knoxville, Tenn. and Largo, Md. in addition to three Virginia locations. 

Emily Zheng, RAM at U.Va. president and fourth-year College student, joined RAM her second year and said she found a rewarding experience where she could meet new people. While RAM at U.Va. largely sends members to clinics organized by the national organization, Zheng has supported the chapter’s goal of hosting its own clinics. RAM at U.Va. hosted its first clinic November 2022, serving about 500 people and providing approximately $25,000 worth of care. 

“It's nice to see that impact in the nearby community,” Zheng said. “I just hope we give more people the opportunity to go on these trips and find out what they're passionate about.” 

Following the success of the November 2022 clinic, Zheng and the executive board at RAM at U.Va. are planning on hosting another clinic at the Augusta Expo Center in Fishersville this upcoming April. Due to the large size and logistics of the event, Zheng and the rest of the executive board are actively recruiting healthcare professionals and volunteers.

Zheng also noted RAM at U.Va.’s focus on community building, both within the chapter and with local groups. Garreth Bartholomew, RAM at U.Va. vice president and graduate Arts & Sciences student, said he was attracted to the organization's altruistic cause and hands on experiences. Bartholomew specifically cited RAM at U.Va.’s goal of volunteering at 12 clinics each year.

“It's an incredible way of serving the community and being able to say, in the span of a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, if I hadn't been there, … we wouldn't have been able to help serve 300 patients.” Bartholomew said.

Mikayla Hinton, RAM at U.Va. member and third-year College student, similarly said she was attracted to the organization for the hands-on, real world interactions it provided. 

“Working from 4 a.m. until 6 p.m., every single second of it was amazing, because you got to see these people who need access to health care, but they can't get it on a regular basis,” Hinton said. “It felt really rewarding. ”

With so many students wanting to promote the group’s mission, registration for clinics can be competitive — RAM at U.Va. typically sends 30 volunteers to each location. Bartholomew said this size cap proves challenging since the chapter includes about 200 to 300 active members. 

The executive team uses a point system based on event attendance combined with an essay application process to select volunteers for each trip. Bartholomew and Zheng both serve as core volunteers, members with training in specific areas who receive funding to attend every clinic. 

During clinics, general support volunteers are placed into either medical, visual or dental services. Hinton said she enjoys working on the medical floor in patient registration, but many students rotate across areas to learn which aspect of healthcare they prefer.

Although many RAM at U.Va. members are studying on the pre-health track, Bartholomew said he has found immense value in the group as a public policy student.

“Mr. Rogers has a quote that if you are ever lost, find the helpers,” Bartholomew said. “We here in RAM, we are the helpers. That's been definitely the best thing I've done at U.Va. And it's something that no matter who you are, no matter [what] your background is, it's something I would recommend to as many people as possible.”

Zheng echoed this sentiment, saying RAM at U.Va. encourages students of all backgrounds to apply.

“We really strive to have diversity and have different perspectives because we believe that's how we get to where we want to be,” Zheng said. “I think that's really important and I really hope that it continues to increase in the future.”

With the executive board and members working on recruitment ahead of next semester, the RAM at U.Va. free clinic will be hosted at the Augusta Expo Center April 2024.


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