A group of five Marymount Nursing students and two Nursing faculty members spent last weekend at Pimlico Elementary and Middle Schools in Baltimore, volunteering at a Remote Area Medical (RAM)
clinic and providing free medical, dental and vision care to hundreds of underserved patients.
The Marymount student group consisted of Bevs Aaliyah Aranjuez, Jennifer Dysart, Meghan Hamlin, Claire Ganoe and Miriam Gammo, and was led by Dr. Agnes Burkhard and Marian Harmon from the University’s Nursing program. They were the only nursing student group at the event, working to triage 603 patients and providing about $276,000 in services at the two-day clinic.
“This is often the first time students have the opportunity to meet and engage with underserved community members whose needs are inadequately met by our current health systems,” explained Dr. Burkhard, an Associate Professor of Nursing at Marymount. “As faculty, our hope is that students will be inspired to serve as nurse advocates for underserved communities, advocating for policies to improve access to oral health, vision care and healthcare services.”
Over the last four years, Marymount BSN students and faculty have participated in six mobile clinics in Virginia and Maryland through the RAM program. However, this was the first time that they served with commissioned officers in the U.S. Public Health Service, and learned about the governmental organization’s mission and its role in assisting underserved and vulnerable populations.
On Saturday, Sept. 7, students met with RADM Sylvia Trent-Adams, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health. Dysart participated in an in-depth discussion with her about professional nursing career opportunities in the U.S. Public Health Service, and was presented a “challenge coin” to encourage the achievement of excellence in her future nursing career.
“I feel more confident in my ability to perform assessments and communicate with patients regarding their health,” Dysart said. “The event allowed me to develop and strengthen skills while making a real impact for people in need. The experience encapsulates why I chose nursing and the core values that I will carry with me throughout my career.”
The following day, the Marymount group had the opportunity to meet the Surgeon General of the U.S., Vice Admiral Jerome Adams. Referred to as the “Nation’s Doctor,” Dr. Adams commended the students for their service to the community and stressed the important role that professional nurses play as members of healthcare teams and in promoting the health of the nation.
During the clinic, students worked in the triage area where they screened both children and adult participants before medical, dental and optical services. The volunteers collected health history and vital sign data from the participants, some of whom had multiple co-morbid health conditions.
“Many patients have been in pain for months and were desperate to finally have a tooth extracted,” Gammo recalled. “For some adults, it was their first time doing a blood glucose screening. A few patients were even in a hypertensive crisis which required immediate medical attention. This RAM clinic provided excellent health services, education and resources for people of all ages and backgrounds in this underserved community.”
Community residents were even observed lining up overnight in hopes of receiving one or more of the services.
“Being a nursing student, I studied the many health disparities underserved communities face, but I had not recognized the sheer magnitude regarding the lack of access to care that lower socioeconomic populations experience until volunteering for RAM in Baltimore,” Ganoe said. “I strongly suggest anyone pursuing a career in the health professions to volunteer for this great organization.”
“I felt that we were really helping and I was touched by how grateful people were for us to be there,” Hamlin said. “It was a valuable and insightful experience that I will always remember.”
RAM has provided free medical, dental and vision care to hundreds of thousands of people through the operation of mobile medical clinics in the U.S. and abroad over the past 34 years. Founded in 1985 by Stan Brock, the organization’s mission is to prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing free, competent and compassionate healthcare to those who are impoverished, isolated and underserved.