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RAM founder Stan Brock receives 2010 Inamori Prize

Sean Hobson

Issue date: 9/3/10 Section: News
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This year's recipient of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence Prize, Stan Brock, founder of Remote Area Medical (RAM). Established in 1985, RAM is a publicly supported all-volunteer charitable organization devoted to providing free health care in remote areas of the world.
This year's recipient of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence Prize, Stan Brock, founder of Remote Area Medical (RAM). Established in 1985, RAM is a publicly supported all-volunteer charitable organization devoted to providing free health care in remote areas of the world.
[Click to enlarge]
Speaking out: Ethics Prize recipient Stan Brock challenger the American medical system.
Speaking out: Ethics Prize recipient Stan Brock challenger the American medical system.
[Click to enlarge]
In a country that is revaluating
its healthcare structure, the unfortunate
many caught in the transition
turn to the work of 2010 Inamori
Prize winner Stan Brock. Brock is
the founder of Remote Area Medical
(RAM), an organization that has
provided free medical care to over
300,000 individuals since 1985. On
Wednesday Sept. 1, Brock gave his
acceptance speech entitled "All the
Cowboys Were Indians" to a packed
Severance Hall.

In his speech, Brock animatedly
detailed how he was inspired
to start RAM. "I was in a remote
village with native Indians when
I fell off a horse and was crushed.
After they pulled me out from under
it, they told me that the nearest
doctor was 28 days away by foot.
That's when it occurred to me that
maybe it would be a good idea to
bring more doctors closer to where
these people live." From that point
on, Brock started on a mission to
bring free healthcare to where it
was needed most.

Surprisingly, it isn't only Brock's unwavering
determination in this work that made
him eligible for the prize; it was also his
ultra-simple lifestyle. Despite donations and
recognized as a 501c tax-exempt charitable
organization by the I.R.S., Brock doesn't take
a salary. He sleeps in an abandoned school
building in Tennessee (when not sleeping in
a roll-up cot at RAM events) with only the
basic necessities.
He further demonstrated his dedication
by refusing the $25,000 monetary award that
accompanies the Inamori Ethics Prize, suggesting
instead that the check be written out
to RAM. Brock refused a first-class ticket to
come to Cleveland to accept the award (flying
himself instead in an old WWII plane),
as well as to be picked up by a limousine.

Brock's longtime friend and dentist, John Osbourn,
jokingly described when he and Brock
arrived at the hotel that the Inamori Center
had booked for them: the hotel receptionist
staff asked if they needed help carrying their
heavy luggage. To which Brock replied: "let's
just hurry up and carry our stuff in. I don't
have a 1 dollar to tip the bellman.'"

The magic of doing so much with so little
is what makes Brock's story so compelling.
He has operated RAM on a shoe-string budget
for many years. All the medical supplies RAM
uses are donated and the medical professionals
volunteer their time. The day before he was
scheduled to give the lecture, Brock met with
CWRU students at the Inamori Center to answer
questions. It was during this session that
he remarked that he wished he had corporate
support, but no organizations had approached
him without ulterior motives. And he refuses
government funding because it comes with
too many strings attached. But lack of consistent
funding has not stopped him from holding
over 618 RAM clinics so far around the
country and the globe, with the average day
lasting from 5:30 a.m to 8:30 p.m. Brock attends
every one and hands out numbers to all
the people that show up, and calls them forth
when it's their turn to be seen.

A CWRU student asked Brock about the
emotional impact of refusing to see more
people due to volunteer constraints. Brock
replied, "having to turn people away does
take an emotional toll, and it's saddening every
time I have to do it. Not being able to do
enough should not stop us from doing all that
we can. And even when people are told that
they can't receive care, they still thank us for
coming."

Brock went on to reveal that it isn't so much
as lack of volunteers hampering RAM's operations,
but rather American law. Currently, it
is illegal for medical and dental professionals
to volunteer their services across state lines.
Thus, a doctor from Tennessee can't volunteer
at a RAM clinic in Ohio because he's not
an Ohio-licensed physician. Brock remarked
that he has tried everything to have this law
amended, with success only in Tennessee. He
commissioned the CWRU students in attendance
to see to it that such a law is changed
in the future.

Toward the end of his Inamori lecture,
Brock stated that while RAM was founded to
aid remote villages in third-world countries,
over 60 percent of its clinics are held in the
United States. Brock thought it saddening
that in the world's richest country there are
so many individuals in need of healthcare,
especially vision and dental care. For them,
"it is not a matter of access, but affordability,"
he remarked. Brock restated that he has no
ties to any particular political group, but he
does hope that healthcare will become affordable
in America so that RAM can get back
to its original target population - he needy in
remote countries.

Still, Brock had other countries in mind
when he described his proposed program
in Haiti. The "RAM RANGERS" will empower
Haiti's young people to help their own
country. Each group of recruits will undergo
intense training for six to eight weeks in trade
skills and community service so as to restore
Haitian pride and land. Another aspect of the
RAM RANGERS program is creating a positive
recycling program to generate goods and
possibly revenue. Brock said there is tons of
waste in Haiti, including millions of water
bottles, which can be compressed and turned
into thread. This thread can then be used to
clothe the Haitian people or serve as an environmentally
friendly exportable commodity
to bring in much-needed income. "All of
it," stated Brock, "will be Haitian owned and
operated."

Continued innovation in assisting the underserved
with little funding is part of Brock's
appeal. He is constantly praised for not living
a double life like so many other famous
humanitarians. He doesn't go to rural Tennessee
and volunteer during the day, only to
drive back in a BMW to the suburbs at night.
In fact, it could be said that CWRU students
have better sleeping arrangements than he
does. And he continues his lifestyle for the
sole motive of doing as much good as he can
while he can. There is no doubt that Severence
Hall could not seat all of the people for
whom Brock has provided, say, new eyeglasses
or dentures.

When asked why Brock was chosen for
the prize, Dr. Shannon French, director of
the Inamori Center, explained, "We do live
in a cynical age, and a lot of times our hero's
disappoint us. And, I think, because Stan isn't
trying to be a hero or celebrity, he...without
trying to becomes the hero that we all want
to see.
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    Paul Wittke

    posted 9/03/10 @ 12:37 PM EST

    Congratulations to Stan Brock, a man who truly deserves this award! He humbly serves, with love and compassion, all those who are in need. He is completely and faithfully dedicated to helping his "neighbors". (Continued…)

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    Issue Summary

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