Bringing Care to Communities

Remote Area Medical brings free clinics to those who need it most.

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 12, 2009— -- Ayana Kleckner, 15, hasn't been to a dentist in years. Nor has she seen a doctor. Ayana's mother, Elon Kleckner, could not afford basic medical care. But when they found out about a free health clinic that was coming to the Los Angeles area, they made sure they were at the front of the line.

At 3:30am Ayana and her mom were among hundreds of people standing in line in the parking lot of the Los Angeles Forum in hopes of getting one of the 1,500 tickets Remote Area Medical volunteers were distributing to those in need.

They were given the numbers 48 and 49.

"This is a miracle because if this wasn't here we wouldn't be able to go to the doctor for who knows how long, it's already been a long time," Ayana said.

By 5 a.m. all the tickets were gone.

Remote Area Medical helps patients who cannot afford health care by bringing an assembly line of dentists, eye doctors and medical doctors to their communities.

The organization uses portable medical equipment such as mobile optical labs and dental stations to set up makeshift clinics for up to a week at a time.

The L.A. clinic tries to see 1,500 patients a day and volunteers guides move the patients from doctor-to-doctor.

Ann Boswell needed an expensive root canal procedure. But an hour later she was all smiles.

"The impact they're making on people's lives is priceless. It really is priceless," she said.

A vow for greater access to health care

This Los Angeles Forum clinic is Remote Area Medical's 576th free clinic it has opened since it was created in 1985.

Stan Brock founded the organization after spending 15 years in the Amazon rainforest. There he witnessed how lack of basic medical needs can harm people. One day Brock broke his leg and was told the closest doctor was a 26-day walk.

After returning to the U.S., Brock vowed to improve access to basic medical care for Americans.

"It's a first come, first serve basis, no questions asked, no financial information required. There are a lot of good programs in this county but they tend to have hurdles that the patient has to leap through in order to get the care," Brock told ABC News.

Remote Area Medical now has a presence in 12 states across the country.

Brock recruits a volunteer army of local doctors and nurses who try to make sure every patient gets the care he or she requires. This includes follow up visits if the diagnosis is serious.

"People are really getting some important health care needs met," said one of the volunteers, Dr. Kenneth Gould, a retired internist.

One obstacle Brock faces when opening these temporary clinics is recruiting enough doctors because only doctors who are licensed in a state where a clinic is held can work in that clinic.

Help and Hope While many patients only need basic care, each ticket that the volunteers hand out represents help and hope and can help make a dark world seem a lot brighter.

After waiting in line through the night, Ayana and her mother have moved onto the dental facility inside a truck parked just outside the Forum.

"Children shouldn't have to be concerned if their teeth are hurting or eyes are hurting, saying 'Mom, I can't really see the board or read my book," Ayana's mom, Elon, said.

Ayana, in pigtails and a stuffed animal in her hand, receives her much needed dentist appointment.

Her mother is thrilled.

"I'm glad she is getting this now," Kleckner said.

In this clinic, it isn't about co-pays or insurance premiums. It's just about health care.