Effective Healthcare in Appalachia: Our Mobile Vision Unit

Blank Skin MVU Truck & TrailerCropped

This unassuming rig will soon deliver vision care to over 1,000 Appalachian Neighbors per year  – thanks to the collaborative efforts of Rotary District 7570, The Rotary Foundation, Friends in Need, Appalachian Miles for Smiles, Remote Area Medical (RAM-USA), the Lions Club, The Health Wagon and Cigna Health.   Now there’s a partnership focused on doing good in our world!

We will reach patients who would otherwise not receive optical care from lack of local providers and/or inability to pay.  Patients will receive a comprehensive eye exam, eyeglasses (lenses to be ground on centrally located RAM USA equipment & frames provided by the Lions Club), referrals for diagnosed eye disease and general health indications (including hypertension and diabetes).  A comprehensive eye examination does a lot of good!

Cigna Health donated the 40 foot diesel-powered and air conditioned trailer.  Here’s a look at the inside prior to renovation – looks kinda tight!

Inside MVU blank

Rotary will outfit the trailer with three optical evaluation stations and one ophthalmic eye examination station.  Friends in Need will operate the unit alongside the Appalachian Miles for Smiles  The total renovation cost is $50,000 – including $10,000 being raised by Rotarians in local clubs and $40,000 in Rotary Foundation matching funds.   Rotarians will dedicate 860 hours to transform the trailer into a Mobile Vision Unit in the summer of 2018, the result much like the Dental Unit already in operation:

RAM Oral Surgery

How did this happen?  It started with a solid partnership with Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia Rotarians along with the founders of Appalachian Miles for Smiles.  We shared the vision that mobile health is an effective delivery system in Appalachia.  Next we visited the Remote Area Medical Health Fair in Wise Virginia, summer 2016:

Joe and John

Johnson City retired Orthodontist John Bradshaw (L) and Kingsport Pediatrician Joe Ley, both active Rotarians, toured the Wise health fair with then Rotary District Governor-Elect Dick Ray and were amazed at the scale and efficiency of the RAM event – treating  1,000 patients with comprehensive health services in three days.   Founded by Stan Brock (remember “Wild Kingdom”?), these are Huge Events

Dr Joe Bruce John

Led by RAM-USA Medical Director Dr. Joe Smiddy (L) and Rotarian Bruce Sites (R), we saw tightly coordinated intake, diagnosis and delivery of about 300 glasses per day as one part of the health fair.  The glasses were ground “on-site” at the health fair.

Making Glasses

It took multiple tents and examination areas for vision care at the Wise health fair.  A more mobile approach is for the Mobile Vision Unit to “be on the road” – arriving in the patient’s community, delivering free examination, diagnosis and prescription, and referring to partner practitioners/hospitals when needed.  Glasses are ground centrally and mailed to the patient within a few days.  Picture the Mobile Vision and Dental Units trekking along – doing good in our world!

Learn more about Mobile Health Delivery at The Health Wagon

Mobile Health was pioneered by The Health Wagon of Virginia – which continues in practice and provides program expertise based on 20 years of mobile health experience.  See this Moving 60 Minutes Overtime Segment

Get Involved!

Help fund the Mobile Vision Unit – Contact Me – Click “Contact” at the top of page.

Sign up for “hands-on” service — contact Friends in Need Healthcare – Bruce Sites




Author: rotarianrichardray

Rotary District 7570 Governor 2017-18

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