Dr. Kipps-Vaughan Volunteers with Wise County Remote Area Medical (RAM) Project:
“Heart felt” were the words Dr. Debi Kipps-Vaughan used to describe her experience with the Wise County RAM project this past July. As a faculty member in the School Psychology program, Dr. Kipps-Vaughan went as a one of 1,000 volunteers who attend the program annually to provide free medical services in a rural area in southwestern Virginia. Wise County is home to a beautiful, mountain community where thousands of families and individuals travel to the county fair grounds for their vision, dental, hearing, and medical needs each year, often abandoning privacy needs as they line up in the grand stands to wait for much needed, free health care. In an effort to make the experience more ‘child friendly’, Dr. Kipps Vaughan engaged many of the waiting children in play activities. RAM has grown to include not only lunch for all of the participants, but also provides free book bags filled with school supplies, stuffed animals, and sunglasses.
“There's no doubt about it. There is a Third World right here in the United States," concludes Stan Brock, RAM's founder. Brock has organized similar medical expeditions in Asia, Africa and South America. "Here in the world's richest country, you have this vast number of people, some say 47 million, 49 million, that don't have access to the system and that's why [this] is necessary." RAM organizers say they spent about $250,000 providing care worth about $1.5 million. In 10 years in southwest Virginia, they say, they've treated more than 25,000 people. They have eight more expeditions planned this year, from Virginia to California.
One of the many strengths of rural communities was evident to Dr. Kipps Vaughan during her volunteer time with the WISE County RAM. “Families in rural communities know how to make sacrifices to get things done and how to love one another in the process”, reflected Dr. Kipps-Vaughan. Dr. Kipps-Vaughan looks forward to sharing her reflections of this experience with the graduate students in the School Psychology through a new course offered Summer 2010, “Practice Issues in Rural School Psychology”.