News Releases

March 11, 2020
Media contact: Tiana Chantel Conner (404) 778-3711,

Emory Eye Center faculty give back at community health clinic with Remote Area Medical


Mary Carlton, OD
Mary Carlton, OD

(ATLANTA) For Emory Eye Center optometrists, Mary Carlton, OD, and Kristen Thelen, OD, FAAO, having healthy vision is important. As providers, Carlton and Thelen are dedicated to ensuring their patients at Emory Eye Center’s Vision & Optical Services have healthy vision. Outside of their work at Emory, they provide eye care to underserved and uninsured men, women and children at nationwide healthcare clinics sponsored by Remote Area Medical (RAM).

RAM is a Knoxville, Tennessee-based nonprofit provider of free mobile medical clinics. Their mission is to prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing free, quality healthcare to those in need.

Kristen Thelen, MD, FAAO
Kristen Thelen, OD, FAAO

Many volunteer professionals provide free dental, vision and medical services to underserved and uninsured men, women and children. The RAM website mentions 155,000 volunteers—licensed dental, vision and medical professionals—have treated more than 800,000 individuals and delivered more than $150 million worth of free care.

“Volunteering with RAM brings a special level of fun and fulfillment to my life,” Thelen says. “The highly-supported clinics are organized and efficient. We can provide high-quality eye care while getting to know an entirely new community. It’s always fun connecting with new people and lending a helping hand.” 

Thelen began volunteering with RAM as an optometry student in 2011. In 2018, she invited Carlton to join.

“Dr. Thelen approached me in 2018 to volunteer with her for a RAM clinic in Virginia. I was hesitant at first, but once there, I was amazed at the number of volunteers at the clinic, both professionals and members from the community,” Carlton says.

“The clinics were extremely well organized.  All the necessary equipment was set up and optometrists, ophthalmologists and optometry students participated in patient care,” Carlton says.

The day begins with the clinic parking lot opening to the public no later than midnight on the first night of the event. Each incoming patient receives a ticket and are then served in numerical order according to their ticket number when clinic doors open. Doors usually open for patients at 6 a.m.

Dental, vision and medical services are provided to patients a first-come, first-serve basis. Due to time constraints, patients may opt to choose between dental and vision services, although medical services are offered to all patients.

When a patient chooses the vision option, they are seen by Carlton, Thelen or another optometrist, at a designated station. A thorough eye examination is performed to determine the presence of vision-related problems. For simple cases, patients are given medicine or an eyeglasses prescription and can pick up a free pair of eyeglasses the same day.



Mission trips like these are made possible by Emory through the Shared Operating and Unit Performance (SOUP) program. Each year, Emory University and Emory Healthcare support additional individual and programmatic clinical and academic initiatives. Proposals are often submitted, by faculty and staff, in support of an individual, a group of individuals, a service or a department or can also relate to clinical opportunities, clinical research, professional development, education or other academic initiatives.

Learn more about Global Ophthalmology-Emory:


The Emory Eye Center is the largest, most comprehensive eye care facility in Georgia, serving patients for more than 145 years. Our goals are simple: to provide the best possible eye care and save the sight of those in danger of losing it. Ophthalmologists, optometrists, and other eye care professionals treat individuals of all ages who need care ranging from annual vision exams to treatment of complex vision disorders. Our physicians also help train the ophthalmologists of tomorrow through residency and fellowship programs that are recognized as some of the best in the country. Scientists at Emory Eye Center are researching the causes of and improved treatments for macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, genetic eye diseases and more.



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