RAM Founder Stan Brock Leaves Behind Legacy of Outreach

Richard Gawel


Stan Brock, founder and president of Remote Area Medical (RAM), died on August 29, 2018, in Knoxville, Tennessee, at the age of 82. Since its founding in 1985, RAM has provided free medical, dental, and vision care totaling $120 million to nearly 1 million people.

Brock’s journey to philanthropy began in 1953 when he suffered an injury while living among the Wapishana Indians in Guyana, South America, 26 days away from the nearest medical care. The experience left him determined to bring aid to those in otherwise inaccessible regions.

“He was a vaquero, or a cowboy, at the Dadanawa Ranch, which at the time was the world’s largest cattle ranch. He was given a horse named Kang, and Kang had already killed two other people,” said Robert D. Lambert, media relations specialist at RAM. 

“He got thrown into a corral pretty hard, and he had some broken ribs and some other injuries,” said Lambert. “So he thought to himself, maybe medical care should be closer to the people who need it.” 

Later, Brock was the cohost of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on television and starred in several Hollywood movies. In 1985, though, he sold his house and all of his belongings to found RAM and reach those who needed care around the world. 

“Originally, the plan was to provide care in remote areas, developing countries like Guyana, Mexico, Haiti, and the Caribbean. The first mission we ever had was in Mexico,” Lambert said. “But then, in late 1991, he received a call from the mayor of Sneedville, Tennessee.”

The mayor said that the town’s only hospital was closing and that the only dentist in town had retired, adding that there was nowhere for people to go for any kind of medical help. And that’s what led to the first American RAM clinic in Sneedville on May 9, 1992.

In the years that followed, RAM remained a small operation with about a dozen clinics per year. RAM now operates dozens of clinics each year in urban and rural regions alike, with each open to the public. There are no qualifying questions, and identification isn’t required.

In 2017, 17,126 RAM volunteers served 4,108 children, 37,709 adults, and 367 pets at more than 60 clinics, providing more than $13.5 million in free care. Each patient costs $90 to treat, but receives $322 in care. Also, 90% of its operations take place in the United States.

While RAM provides general medical screenings at these clinics, 95% of its patients end up needing dental and vision work. Procedures include cleanings, fillings, and extractions. More complicated work such as root canals are referred to local dentists who provide care for free.

Last year was particularly challenging, due to hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria. In response, RAM shipped more than 100,000 pounds of disaster relief supplies to Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean.

“We had mobile medical clinics in Puerto Rico of December last year, where we treated over 2,000 patients with free dental, vision, and medical care,” said Lambert. “So we do have a very active disaster relief department as well.”

Through the years, Brock remained active in leading the organization, travelling to Guyana in April, taking part in the July clinic in Wise, Virginia, and still giving interviews early in August. His daily schedule was full as well.

“I would come in the morning at 8 am. He would already be up emailing, phone calling, planning, looking into things. He would be doing that when I left in the evenings at 5 o’clock. It wasn’t unheard of for people to get a phone call from him at 2 o’clock in the morning, saying ‘I have an idea. How will we get this done?’” Lambert said.

In his absence, the work will go on. 

“I just think he really set the bar high for us at Remote Area Medical, and we’re going to continue on with his legacy of providing care to people in need. Unfortunately, the need is still there. So we’re going to keep on providing until there’s not a need,” Lambert said.

RAM encourages dentists and dental professionals to volunteer for its clinics, with events scheduled in seven different states between now and the end of the year. Some states will recognize the licenses of out-of-state volunteers so they can practice without complications.

Plus, RAM will be hosting a celebration of Brock’s life on Thursday, September 27 at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium at 6 pm. The event will be open to the public. In lieu of flowers, Brock requested that donations be sent to RAM.

“I’ve never met anyone more dedicated, more devout to the cause than he was,” said Lambert. 

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