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First-ever free clinic treats 179 patients in Tonopah – PHOTOS

This past weekend was life-changing for many living in and around the town of Tonopah, with Remote Area Medical bringing its free, pop-up health care clinic to the community for the very first time.

Remote Area Medical, or RAM as it is commonly called, is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing pain and alleviating suffering by providing quality health care services, such as general medical, dental and vision care, at absolutely no cost to patients.

RAM made its inaugural trip to Nye County seven and a half years ago, selecting Pahrump as the community to serve. With the aid of the NyE Communities Coalition and a local Community Host Group Committee, RAM has been able to return to Pahrump each year and the impact has been such that in 2022, the coalition set its sights on expanding the clinic into the Tonopah area.

Following months of hard work and dedicated effort, the Tonopah RAM Clinic was held on March 4 and 5 at Tonopah High School and afterward, organizers were raving about the result.

“Overall, the clinic was a great success!” Community Host Group Committee member Ryan Muccio commented when all was said and done. “The weather presented a challenge logistically, with so much snow, but in true RAM fashion, we made it work.”

In total, the Tonopah RAM Clinic was able to serve 179 patients, for a total of $72,698 worth of health care services provided.

A huge force of 275 volunteers came together for the weekend, with people traveling from all over the country. RAM officials said volunteers came from right here in Nevada and neighboring California, as well as states such as Kentucky, New York, South Carolina, Minnesota, Virginia, Tennessee and Texas.

According to data complied by RAM for the Tonopah Times, Nye County has a patient-to-primary-care-physician ratio of 3,023 to one.

For dentistry, the ratio is even worse at 5,169 people to a single dentist. And while a vast majority of Tonopah’s population does in fact have health insurance coverage of some kind, RAM found that the biggest issue for the area was access to care. Even with health insurance, residents of the area often must travel hours to find the care they need, creating an additional barrier to health and wellness.

Patient comments

Patients’ full names will be withheld for privacy reasons but a couple of attendees took a moment to offer their thoughts about the clinic over the weekend.

Samantha, of Tonopah, went to the Tonopah RAM event seeking one of the clinic’s most popular services, dental care.

In need of a filling, Samantha remarked, “It’s a lot, there’s no dentist in Tonopah. If you want dental care, you have to go a couple hundred miles. Personally, I have insurance, but I know there are some people who don’t. And a lot of people don’t have cars here, so they can’t travel out of the area to get anything done.”

Samantha wasn’t just a recipient of care last weekend, either. She also volunteered her time to assist, making sandwiches to cater breakfast for the volunteers at 2:30 a.m. before heading to the clinic for her own needs.

Haley, another resident of the area, brought both her son and daughter to the event, with each in need of dental care and Haley herself receiving a women’s health exam. She too explained the difficulties faced by those living in such a rural part of the state, noting that her family has to drive 200 or so miles north to Fallon or roughly the same distance south to Pahrump just to see a dental professional. That’s why the Tonopah RAM Clinic was such an important event for her family.

“I’m so happy today that it’s not even funny,” Haley stated. “I’ve been smiling all day long. Not only does my family need it, but there’re so many people here that don’t have a car at all or they can’t get Medicaid. They get no health care. I’m not only grateful for myself, but for all of the people of Tonopah.”

From the volunteers

On the opposite side of the spectrum, four-year UNLV School of Dentistry student Devin Norton was on site offering the expertise he has gathered over the course of his education to better the lives of others.

“RAM is awesome and I’m sure they’re not the only clinic that’s doing this. It motivates you to keep wanting to do stuff like this, and it makes me very grateful that someone, somewhere, had a vision. This is their vision; we’re helping people,” Norton said.

It’s not all solemn seriousness, however, with Norton adding that the clinic was actually a lot of fun. “We get to interact with people in the community, they are putting their trust in us. It’s one thing for them to come to UNLV and for us to work on them in that environment, but to come out into the ‘real world’ and work on them is awesome for us, especially in these areas that don’t get a lot of dental work,” he enthused.

Pahrump Community Health Nurse Crystal Kennedy traveled to Tonopah for the occasion too, with her office providing a variety of services such as STD testing, birth control, vaccinations and more.

“It was just a such a positive experience. I heard so many good, wonderful stories from my clients,” Kennedy told the public and Nye County Commission at its first meeting following the event. “I actually had one lady in tears who stated that this was the first time she had been treated like a human. She said, ‘You guys have restored my faith in the medical system’ and that she had never met so many amazing people who all came together for the greater good to provide services to those who need it.

“Every single person I talked to was so grateful,” Kennedy continued, adding, “Some of these kids had never seen a dentist and that was their very first dental visit ever. And everyone knows, even with insurance, dental is expensive. So to see these people getting services they have never even had available to them, was amazing to be a part of. It was an electric experience.”

Appreciation all around

Muccio made certain to give a shout-out to all those who helped make the Tonopah RAM Clinic as wonderful as it was.

“A huge thank you to the Nye County Commission, which awarded the NyECC a grant to allow this clinic to happen, and to the Nye County School District/Tonopah High School and principal, who were great hosts for the clinic. Thank you, as always, to RAM for continuing to bless our communities with their services. Thank you to Misha Allen, Jess Rosner and Boonn Hem from the Tonopah Rotary Club, who were fantastic community host group leads, and to the Rotary for co-sponsoring the clinic as well as donating food for the volunteers,” Muccio said.

“Thank you to Raley’s for donating water and snacks for volunteers and to Studio 33 and Kasey Kersch for providing our volunteer T-shirts. Thank you to M&K Enterprises for donating portable toilets, and last but not least, a huge thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers, both medical and non-medical, who pulled together to make this clinic a success,” Muccio continued. “I am so incredibly appreciative for everyone making this clinic happen. The town of Tonopah is in great need of quality health care and we were able to fill part of that need.”

For more information on RAM visit www.RAMUSA.org

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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