At Manatee County’s first Remote Area Medical Clinic (RAM) in 2015, orthodontist Dr. Steven Tinsworth worked almost nonstop to screen more than 600 patients in two days. “I saw some mouths of disaster I haven’t seen since dental school at the University of Kentucky,” he remembers. Last year, his team of volunteer dentists and dental hygienists treated 948 people with tooth extractions, fillings, cleanings and more.
RAM is part of a national network of free pop-up clinics that started in 1985 to help people with no access to medical care in the developing world. Now it comes to 60 communities in the U.S. and abroad annually. Over the years, it has helped nearly 800,000 people in pain.
Longtime Bradenton physician Dr. Richard Conard brought RAM to Manatee County in 2015 and recruited Tinsworth. This year, Tinsworth is once again recruiting volunteer dentists and hygienists for the clinic coming to Manatee Technical College Oct. 12 and 13. More than a thousand uninsured and underinsured people in need of free medical, dental and vision care are expected to start arriving in the wee hours after midnight. They’ll be hoping to secure a place in line to see the all-volunteer team of local medical professionals to gain relief from their suffering.
“Trying to get people out of pain is the first priority,” says Tinsworth. “It’s unbelievable sometimes that people have suffered and finally get relief.”
Beyond RAM, Tinsworth orchestrates dental exams for homeless kids through the Bradenton Kiwanis Club’s annual Christmas in August event. For his pro bono work, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce named him a 2016 Champion of Healthcare. He also is adviser to the orthodontic study club at LECOM.
Tinsworth says the rewards far outweigh the sore backs and fatigue that come from being on his feet for two long days at RAM. “There are a lot of thank you’s and a few hugs along the way; they’re extremely appreciative of the time and effort to get them out of pain,” he says. “There are a lot of tears along the way, too, sometimes from the people giving care. Good hearts fill up from time to time.”
When and Where
RAM takes place Oct. 12 and 13 at Manatee Technical College, 6305 E. S.R. 70, Bradenton.
3,900 patients have been treated since RAM began holding its clinics at Manatee Technical College four years ago.
Teeth and Eyes
Almost 73 percent of all Manatee County RAM patients come for dental and vision care.