WHEN THOUSANDS OF PATIENTS descended upon the Sports Arena near downtown Los Angeles in April for the week-long Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic, UCLA was there.
“I don’t believe it is cancer,” family medicine specialist Michael Rodriguez, M.D., reassured one young woman who came to have a lump on her wrist examined. “I know it can be scary when you don’t know what’s going on, but I want to reassure you that this is not worrying to me. You don’t need to be scared. It’s probably just a cyst.”
The growth had been troubling the young woman for more than a year, and Dr. Rodriguez’s reassurance was just what she needed. “I don’t have any insurance right now because I lost my job, so I really wanted to come here,” she said. “I feel taken care of, and my questions have been answered.This was such a relief.”
About 100 members from the UCLA Health System community participated in the clinic, which, in addition to physicians and medical students, included volunteers from dentistry and nursing. The university also sent the UCLAMobile Eye Clinic, as well as donations of lab test equipment and $5,000 worth of urological supplies.
That kind of participation “is highly consistent with our vision of leveraging all the remarkable intellectual resources in the David Geffen School ofMedicine at UCLA and UCLA Health System to improve the health of our communities,” said A. Eugene Washington,M.D., M.Sc., vice chancellor for UCLA Health Sciences and dean of the medical school.
Using an all-volunteer workforce, the RAMfree clinics travel the country providing care to underserved communities. Throughout the Sports Arena, recession stories abounded: people working two low-paying jobs to make ends meet; jobs – and insurance – lost in the economic downturn; years of having to wait before seeing a dentist or doctor for lack of health coverage.
Despite long lines and waits of several hours, patients seemed appreciative to finally receive care. “It’s terribly sad, but they are relieved that someone can tell them what’s going on,” Dr. Rodriguez said. “They all have this sense of uncertainty about their health.”
And while he acknowledged that participation in an outreach such as RAM was part of UCLA’s service mission, he looked forward to the day when it was a thing of the past. “We have to work to make this sort of thing unnecessary,” he said. “People shouldn’t have to do this to receive healthcare. It’s unacceptable.”