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Feature Access to Healthcare in the US

Stan Brock: providing free care to America’s uninsured

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 30 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2834
  1. Karen McColl, freelance writer
  1. 1Savoie, France
  1. karenmccoll{at}

When Remote Area Medical comes to town, families travel for hours and camp out for a chance to see a doctor or dentist for free. The organisation’s founder, UK born Stan Brock, talks to Karen McColl about treating America’s poor and whether President Obama’s health reforms will put him out of work

For three days last month, several thousand people waited for hours in the rain outside the Coliseum sports stadium in Oakland, California, hoping for free healthcare. “Each day we will be giving out patient numbers starting at 3.30 am on the morning of that day’s clinic… If you do not have a number by about 6 am you probably won’t get served,” warned the pre-event publicity. Still they came in their thousands. Over the three days, 2900 people received free dental, eye, or medical care. Hundreds more had to be turned away from the event, organised by volunteer run Remote Area Medical (RAM).

President Obama’s struggles to reform healthcare have ensured that the issue has barely left the front pages in the US. Back in 1992, however, when Remote Area Medical first provided free care to vulnerable Americans there was much less awareness that millions of people struggle to afford the medical care they need. “Hancock County [in eastern Tennessee] had closed the little hospital there, and the local dentist had also left, so I got a request to come up there to do some dentistry. We loaded a couple of …

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