Mervyn M. Dymally, Director of CDU’s Urban Health Institute, visited the Forum in Inglewood where thousands of people have been lining up for free dental, medical and vision care from a program that stages health care clinics around the world.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Dr. Dymally said. “This is a clear example of why we need health care reform in this country. We need more doctors, more medical professionals and health care has to be made more affordable.”
Dymally—a veteran politician who became the first black state senator in 1966 and the first black lieutenant governor in 1974 before serving a dozen years in congress and another six in the assembly—retired from politics last year to head Charles Drew’s Urban Health Institute. A longtime advocate health care reform, Dymally said that California has a very complex system of healthcare with more than 6.6 million people uninsured, nearly 20 percent of the state’s population under age 65.
On the first two days of operation, about 1,500 people showed up at the Forum, where doctors, dentists, nurses and other healthcare professionals were providing the free medical services this week. Among the dozens of doctors and medical professionals volunteering to see patients for free were three students from Charles Drew University’s physician assistance program: Nkwain Ngamfon, John Sangmoah and Charles Sangmoah.
Remote Area Medical Foundation has staged health clinics in rural parts of the United States, Mexico and South America. The foundation brought this program to Inglewood where larger than expected crowds showed up. Based in Knoxville, Tenn., the mobile clinic has put on more than 576 medical clinics over the last 25 years, treating nearly 380,000 patients.
“Everything has been running smoothly,” said Mary Ann DeMars, a volunteer for RAM who traveled to Inglewood to participate in the clinic from her home in Roanoke, VA. “Our volunteers come from all over, but the doctors are from Los Angeles.”
Dr. Erique E. Emel, a pediatrician from Kaiser Permanente, was one of the doctor volunteers. “It’s been great,” he said. “They keep everything moving. It’s very organized.”
Oscar Sandoval, a 40-year-old resident of Apple Valley, was one of the more than 1,500 people who were seen by health professionals. After finishing some dental work, he accompanied his father who had his vision checked and was picking out a suitable frame for a pair of glasses.
“I was able to get a root canal and that was something I really needed,” Sandoval said. “Dental work is so expensive today.”
On Thursday, Dymally met with into several volunteers from Charles Drew University who were working to help the people who showed up for the free health care.
One volunteer, John Sangmoah, decided to volunteer at the Forum after hearing an announcement on television. Sangmoah, a student in CDU’s Physician Assistance Program in the College of Science and Health, called two other students and asked them to join him.
“I said, ‘Let’s go!’” he recalled. “This is our mission: to give something back. That is why we came here.”
The opportunity to volunteer came at the right time. Sangmoah, his brother Charles and Nkwain Ngamfon—all three students in CDU’s Physician Assistance Program—were on break from classes.
At the forum on Friday, they worked with Linda Lewis, a graduate of the university’s Physician Assistance Program.
“I had to come here,” she said. “It’s part of the mission.”
Remote Area Medical (RAM) closed the health care clinic at the Inglewood Forum on Tuesday.
Preliminary statistics available show that over 4,000 RAM volunteers provided nearly 14,000 patient services to over 6,000 men, women and children in need, for a total value of care of nearly $3 million dollars, according to a press release from RAM.
- Dental services: approximately 2,200 extractions, 5,492 fillings, nearly 2,000 cleanings and 3,200 exams
- Approximately 1,800 pairs of eyeglasses
- Almost 8,000 general medical exams
- Nearly 400 mammograms
The free, weeklong clinic, RAM’s 576th expedition, provided dental, vision, and medical care, and included preventive services such as mammograms, Pap Smears, HIV and TB testing, acupuncture, and more. Los Angeles is the first major metropolitan stop for RAM, founded in 1985 by Stan Brock to provide medical care to Third World countries. Now, 60% of RAM’s work takes place in the United States. Next stop for the RAM team is Fort Duquesne, Utah, at the Northern Ute Tribes Reservation, for another free medical clinic August 22-23. A full schedule of expeditions is planned through the end of the year.
Despite admitting nearly 1,000 patients a day, the RAM-LA Clinic had to turn away thousands more, many who camped overnight to try and get seen. Nearly 60% of the patients needed dental care, which is normal for a RAM event. Each patient received an average of 2.5 services. Approximately 4.86% were children.