The Healing Fields

The Healing Fields

For three days each year, health-care volunteers transform an Appalachian fairgrounds into a field hospital providing free medical care to thousands in need. (Wash.Post)

Nearly 50 million Americans lack health insurance and another 25 million are uninsured. In one response to the crisis, volunteers have descended upon one poor pocket of the country for the past nine years to provide free health care. For three days, more than 800 volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses and other health-care workers come to Wise County, Virginia, to provide free medical care to those who cannot afford it. The volunteers transform the county fairgrounds into a field hospital. For the patients, this may be their only chance to receive medical care all year.

This Washington Post project includes two videos, a photo gallery and an in-depth article about Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps, a non-profit organization that provides free health care all over the world.

Founder Stan Brock, a British-born adventurer who gained fame 40 years ago on “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” has spent the last 23 years flying to the poorest countries in the world to provide free health care. Sixty percent of his work in now in the U.S. This is the ninth year the clinic has come to Wise County, and many people return for care each year.

The videos include interviews with founder Brock, and providers and patients. Featured: a man who had all of his teeth pulled last year and is back this year for dentures, and a mother who puts her daughter’s care before her own.

As this year’s clinic winds down, the numbers are impressive: 2,670 people have received medical treatment worth more than $1.7 million. Hundreds of tests have been administered. More than 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses have been made. More than 4,000 teeth have been extracted. But even as the clinic saves lives and alleviates suffering, Brock says he knows it amounts to slapping a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.

WINNER: The Concentra Award 2009

CHANNEL: Washington Post

Hidden Hurt: 5:02
Putting Others First: 4:37

Video: Alexandra Garcia and Whitney Shefte
Photography: Michael Williamson
Story: Mary Otto
Web Producer: Amanda McGrath
Designer: Noel Smart