Helping hand

VCOM-VC volunteers deliver supplies to tornado-struck clinic in Alabama

Three days after a tornado struck Birmingham, six students and two deans loaded a truck with medical equipment and drove south.


It was mid-morning April 28 when Randall L. DeArment, DO, emailed friends about the tornado that shredded his Birmingham, Ala., clinic the night before. Minutes later, his telephone rang.

The caller, Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, DO, told Dr. DeArment she wanted to help. The dean and executive vice president of the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine–Virginia Campus (VCOM-VC), Dr. Tooke-Rawlins said her school had a medical outreach group and that she could provide medical supplies to get Jefferson Metrocare Health Center clinic up and running.

The offer couldn’t have been more welcome. Before the tornado, Jefferson Metrocare housed 15 exam rooms, a physical therapy department and a pharmacy. Each day, staff at the center treated about 45 low-income patients. On July 1, the clinic was scheduled to host a new osteopathic family medicine residency program.

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“After the tornado hit, the insurance company wouldn’t allow us even to enter the building,” says Dr. DeArment, the clinic’s program director. “The insurer has yet to decide whether to total it and rebuild.” In the meantime, the clinic moved to temporary quarters on the seventh floor of Cooper Green Mercy Hospital in Birmingham. Even in the new location, Dr. DeArment and his staff needed medical supplies.

Help on the way

At VCOM-VC, Dr. Tooke-Rawlins and H. Dean Sutphin, PhD, the associate vice president for international and Appalachian outreach, asked for student volunteers to deliver clinic provisions to Dr. DeArment’s clinic.

Three days after the tornado struck, six VCOM-VC students—Christopher E. Bishop, OMS III, Justin T. Himler, OMS III, Stephenson C. Hudson, OMS III, Ryan M. Jordan, OMS III, Omar A. Rokayak, OMS III, and Darion L. Showell, OMS III—loaded a rental truck with supplies and joined Dr. Tooke-Rawlins and Dr. Sutphin for the trip.

“We knew that even in the absence of a disaster, the expense of establishing a new residency program is a great commitment,” Dr. Tooke-Rawlins says. “We were able to provide two osteopathic manipulative medicine tables, three Ob-Gyn exam tables, a pediatric table, standing lights, six waiting room chairs, gauze sponges, surgical instruments for minor procedures, weight scales, and a couple of wooden desks and chairs.”

After arriving in Birmingham at about 1 p.m., the VCOM-VC group quickly unloaded the truck, joined Dr. DeArment for lunch and headed back to Virginia at 4 p.m.

“Until we received the supplies, we had been planning on using hospital beds for exam tables, which is not very efficient or appropriate,” Dr. DeArment says.

The deliveries will help ensure that the clinic—which is still scheduled to start the osteopathic residency program July 1—is adequately stocked to accommodate patients and the new residents.

“This is a story of the osteopathic professional family taking care of its own,” Dr. DeArment says.

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