Ron Brewer to keynote fundraiser for RAM clinic

By LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted 1/8/18

Remote Area Medical is coming back to Cleveland at the start of this new year, but not for a weekend clinic as in the past. The major (weekend) RAM clinic will be next year.Ron Brewer, disaster …

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Ron Brewer to keynote fundraiser for RAM clinic

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Remote Area Medical is coming back to Cleveland at the start of this new year, but not for a weekend clinic as in the past. The major (weekend) RAM clinic will be next year.

Ron Brewer, disaster manager for the global medical assistance organization, will be the guest speaker at a RAM fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19, at  St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic church.

The fundraiser, in the Parrish Life Center, will include a meet-and-greet with Brewer at 6 p.m., a silent auction with various items (including gourmet cakes from Vienna Bakery), and a spaghetti dinner with home-made desserts.

Sherry Parks, head of the church's RAM Health Ministry, said the meal and program are to raise funds for necessary items needed to conduct a  mini-RAM clinic in April.

Tickets are $15 per person, or $12.50 for four or more, and can be reserved by calling Parks at 423-336-1011. Tickets can also be purchased by visiting the church between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m, and you may also reserve a table for $100. Tickets must be reserved by Tuesday, Jan. 16, so a correct amount of food can be prepared.

The church, and numerous volunteers, sponsor a mini-RAM clinic in Cleveland every other year, with RAM has a major clinic here in alternate years.

"Since 2008, we've provided more than $1 million in medical, dental and vision services and treatment at the mini-clinics," Parks emphasized. "The program has assisted more than 5,000 people in need." 

Remote Area Medical  was founded in 1985 by Stan Brock, who formerly appeared on television's Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. He spent 15 years working with indigenous people in isolated Amazon locations and was shocked by their lack of health care. The program was originally founded to provide clinical services to people living in such circumstances worldwide, but has grown to be much more than that.

RAM's leaders realized there was a pressing need here in the U.S., and in 1992 the organization began providing medical and vision services to low-income residents of Appalachia, from its headquarters in East Tennessee.

Brewer joined Brock in the 1990s, and became RAM's director for rural America. At the fundraiser, he will discuss how he got involved, and how RAM has grown, expanded, and changed directions over the years.

He has recently taken a back seat in coordinating RAM clinics nationwide, turning that responsibility over to someone else. He is now heading a start-up program to provide disaster relief, and to get RAM certified and recognized as a world leader for such services.

Brewer is now the Disaster Relief Manager for RAM, which is based in Rockford, a small community in Blount County, between Maryville and Knoxville near the backwaters of Fort Loudoun Lake.

He remembers when he joined RAM, the organization realized there was a huge need for dental services. That was when they started incorporating these services with medical and vision assistance.

"Our first clinic was in Hawkins County,  in 1992," he said.

That original effort soon expanded to what RAM calls its "expeditions," including early clinics in Bradley County. These events continue to be held around the United States in large public venues, offering medical, dental and vision care. Brewer stressed that in every case, a local organization invites RAM to hold a clinic.

"For each, and all of the clinics, we are invited," he pointed out.

At the major clinics, such as the ones which have been held in Bradley County, potential patients begin lining up hours before the clinic begins. Clinics generally are held on Saturdays and Sundays, so that low-income working people can attend. All oral health services are provided by volunteer dentists.

"They are such a blessing," Brewer said. "They come to our events from all over the United States. And, once they have participated, they often want to come back. We have many physicians and dentists who volunteer repeatedly, and we also have vision and dental students who come to help. It's a real eye-opener for them; it makes better citizens of them."

Brewer was born and raised in Blount County, and served in the military, in Vietnam. When he returned to the states, he married and attended Hiwassee College, in Madisonville, on the GI Bill.

He later worked for 28 years for Delta Air Lines at several locations across the nation. He and his family retired to a rural home in Blount County's Walland community in the 1990s, until Stan Brock came calling, asking for Brewer's help.

"From early 2004, I have seen many different areas of the United States, and most of the Indian reservations," he said in a recent discussion. He has been in charge of more than 600 free RAM clinics, which have provided more than $50 million in much-needed free care.

"I've made glasses for children who could not read the bulletin boards at their schools, and I've made sure veterans receive care they have needed," Brewer emphasized when questioned about the services RAM provides.

At the Jan. 19 fundraiser, Brewer will talk about all the accomplishments of RAM, and estimate how great the need for care remains, both locally and around the world.

The mini-Ram clinics provide a little of that care in Cleveland, every other year.


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