About six weeks ago, Lincoln Memorial University hosted its sixth Remote Area Medical Health Expedition. The event which provides FREE medical, dental, vision and veterinary care to the un- or underinsured of the region is the University’s single largest community service project. And it truly takes the entire community to pull off.
It’s an event that I had never heard of before the University was asked to step in when another venue cancelled in 2006. That first year, LMU had less than four months to pull the event together. After that first weekend, I never thought I would be that tiered again and I was sure that I would not feel such a deep satisfaction in that tiredness. Sure, it was a long weekend of 14-15 hour days spent mostly on my feet, having walked miles around the Tex Turner Arena. But to see all the good work that was done far outweighed the exhaustion.
In the subsequent years, LMU’s RAM clinics have grown by leaps and bounds. The first clinic served around 500 and the one six weeks ago had 884 registered patients. As gratifying as it is to know that you played a role in helping over 800 people and providing $294,458 worth of medical, dental and vision services; the biggest take away for me is to see our community come together to help our neighbors.
This year LMU welcomed 404 registered volunteers. We had dentist and dental students fly in from all over the country and a large group of students drove from the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis to provide vision care in our clinic. Our own LMU students took time away from their summer break to come back and serve. LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medical students sacrificed precious study time to be a part of the event and Physician Assistant students who had just arrived on campus jumped onboard as well. The community at large also stepped up in big ways. Restaurants from across state lines donated food to feed our volunteers and church groups from around the regional filled in any gaps in the meal schedule. Businesses, banks and government bodies provided funds to help with expenses.
This is a community event like no other in the region. The planning starts a year before the first patient walks through the door. While the steering committee is consumed with RAM in the weeks leading up to the event, the rest of the LMU community is always there with support. From raising funds with denim day Fridays to contributing to snack food drives, the faculty and staff answer any need that arises.
And then there are the maintenance, housekeeping, grounds and security staffs. From moving tables and chairs to rigging special electrical set-ups, the maintenance crews have to put aside their normal tasks in the weeks leading up to RAM. The housekeeping staffs take on extra shifts and word hard to keep up with the massive traffic flow throughout the weekend. Security too, takes on extra hours while keeping all of our visitors safe throughout the event. I’ll say it again, it takes the entire community to put on this community service event.
Today, the RAM steering committee got together to “debrief” the event. We discussed what went right and what could have gone better. It was a time to reflect on a job well done and lay the ground work for our next clinic slated for June 2014. It was also a time to say thank you to the team that made this good work possible. This year we combined the debriefing with an appreciation lunch for the men and women in maintenance, housekeeping, grounds and security who worked so hard to get the campus ready for our event.
This group of unsung heroes are deserving of so much more than a simple thank you meal. Without their diligent work, much of what happens on campus would not be possible.
To everyone that helped with LMU’s Sixth RAM Health Expedition, THANK YOU!