BY SHARON GITTLEMAN
FERNDALE – When you looked around the room, you saw many smiles of relief.
Good news about your health scrubs away more than a few worries from your mind like, is this symptom something I should see a doctor about?
That was just one of the concerns addressed at the fourth annual Health Fair at Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center in Ferndale last weekend.
The event, sponsored by Project Healthy Living, offered people a chance to be screened for a number of ailments, including glaucoma, diabetes and gastritis. The tests were free or were provided for a small fee.
Visitors could also speak to representatives of groups devoted to living well.
Veggies in Motion’s spokespeople promoted meat-free dining, while gay sports clubs, including Team Detroit Aquatics and the Motown Frontrunners, encouraged attendees to get active.
“With the economy as bad as it is, so many people don’t have health insurance,” said Deirdre Shires, Affirmation’s health services coordinator, explaining one reason for the fair.
The effort was also aimed at battling gays’ and lesbians’ fear of dealing with members of the medical profession.
“Many people in the LGBT community may be intimidated from seeing a health care provider. They’re afraid of discrimination. A lot of LGBT people have had bad experiences,” she said. “Here, they know it’s a gay-friendly environment.”
Medical students and other volunteers lined up behind tables set against a basement room wall, ready to test people’s vision, measure body fat content and blood sugar levels, perform tests for prostate and ovarian cancer, gather cholesterol and triglyceride readings and screen people for thyroid problems and other health woes.
People walked from table to table to take the exams they wanted.
Medical student and future osteopath Betty Rumschlag said she decided to volunteer her time at the event out of concern for less fortunate members of the community.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t have access to basic medical care,” she said. “The only way they will get any screening is at one of these health fairs.”
Rumschlag spoke about skin cancer at her station.
“Any time spent educating people about their health is empowering them,” she said.
What would she say if she saw something suspicious?
“I’d tell them to follow up with their doctor,” she said.
Volunteer Mia Taormina, a second year resident in internal medicine, checked people for diabetes.
“People are really thankful we’re here,” she said.
Taormina said she’d found a person with diabetes 60 minutes into the four-hour event.
Medical Student Andrew Goodman said he’d seen a few people with blood pressure on the high side of normal.
“I want to help all communities, but I feel a particular dedication to the LGBT community and their health,” said Goodman, who is gay.
David Skoczylas said he visited Affirmations to get a glaucoma test.
“It’s so easy to come here,” said Skoczylas who learned about the fair in the pages of BTL. “It’s a great thing.”