Welcome back for the second segment of my interview with Remote Area Medical founder Stan Brock. We were talking about how Tennessee was able to change its laws to make it easier to bring in volunteers from out of state. How do you use the success in Tennessee as a template for other states? And, while you're at it, please tell us more about what you see as you cross the country.
I had absolutely nothing to do with it [changing Tennessee law]. Other than making the suggestion, when asked the question what can we do to make your work at Remote Area Medical (a volunteer job, of course) somewhat easier. And I said, "See if the law can be changed to allow practitioners to come in from out of state." And I said the same thing last year in front of the House Ways and Means Committee in Washington and last week in front of the House Commerce Committee.
We, and me in particular as the chairman and founder of this organization, are not taking any political sides in this debate whatsoever. This terrible situation with health care in this country that is so unfair to so many millions of people is for the government to resolve. But you see 1,000 people standing in line in the wind and the rain - because they line up all night, a lot of them in wheelchairs, and people carrying oxygen bottles, with nasal cannula. Even though we only see a few children - about 6%, because children are covered and can get the care they need, in most cases - we see some terrible sights.
been reported in the New York Times
and the Washington Post and other
major newspapers around the world. In fact, when you look at the photographs,
it's hard to believe that this is America. You see people who are willing to
line up for 15 hours, all night, just to get the care that they simply cannot
afford. And they're now traveling long distances. We recently held a
clinic in Kentucky and there were some people there who had traveled 400 miles,
from up in Indiana somewhere.
And we've had patients come all the way from
Wisconsin, Florida, and Maryland. They make that journey by vehicle and some of
them even get an airline ticket; if they have serious problems like multiple
dental extractions that need to be done,sometimes full mouth extractions,
where we have to remove all 32 teeth because they're totally destroyed from
lack of care over many, many years. They've been to a dentist and the
dentist said "Well, that looks like about $5,000 worth of work you've got
there." So we're seeing more and more people like that. And of course,
what we do for them is absolutely free. We just do the best we can for as many
as we can. But we can't see all of them, so we end up turning away large
Do you get a lot of press coverage every time your expedition shows up?
Last year, CBS News 60 Minutes covered one of our expeditions here in Tennessee with what I thought was a most compassionate and very, very well-produced thirteen minutes. After that, there was, and continues to be, a tremendous influx of media not only the local media and the major networks, in the case of Los Angeles, which became a high profile event as far as the press was concerned. But they're coming from all over the world.
The Germans must have been here a dozen times in the last year.
Every magazine, it seems, and every network in Germany, the same in France,
dozens of French reporters have been here. The Japanese have been here several
times. The Australians several times, the British, the Poles, the Finns, the
Italians, the Swiss, they're all over this question because they're all asking
the same thing. Why is this necessary in the world's richest country? And when
you see the photographs that they produce in German magazines, and French
magazines - and they send us a copy usually - it just looks like the Third
World. And it just floors them to see this being the situation here, in the
richest country in the world.
But you know the World Health Organization rates 190 countries in the way they're able to able to deliver care to their citizens. We are rated number 37. Number one in the world, according to the World Health Organization, is France. Number two is Italy. The very bottom of the list, #190, is Burma. So it starts to look as though, if you're expecting to have some devastating problem, maybe you ought to have it happen while you're in France.
I'm sure you must get more requests than you could possibly fill. How do you decide where to go?
Well, a lot of that decision, of course,is based on where we can recruit enough people outside of Tennessee, given the restrictions of those laws that we've talking about. Before 60 Minutes, the only people who knew what we were doing were the poor. But now the whole world seems to know about it. If you Google "Remote Area Medical RAM," you'll get 100,000 hits from all of these news reports, etc. But we've had requests from just-stick-a-pin-in-the-map; it doesn't matter. We've had requests from Dallas, places in Florida, Detroit, New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, New Mexico, all over the place.
We're obviously on the verge of that. We've done a lot of these things in small townships. You know Knoxville, Tennessee, for example is 3-400,000 people, maybe a million people within a 50-mile radius, and places of that size. We've done a lot in those size communities. But most of it is in the small rural areas, places like southeast Kentucky and southwest Virginia. But, yeah, we've been to New Orleans, not only during the hurricane, but a year later and two years after. And seen thousands of people in the space of a week as we did in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles in August, we loaded up the stuff and went up to the Indian
reservation in Fort Duchesne, Utah, and worked with the Indian Health Service
for four or five days. But there, of course, we're restricted to see just
Native Americans because we're under the jurisdiction of the federal government
and, to an extent, the state of Utah, and we were not allowed to treat the
Who shows up when you come to town?