Something for everyone at Shands' community health fair

Kathy Holmes, a pharmaceutical representative with Bayer Healthcare, at center, greets people within a 30-by-10-foot inflatable colon during UF&Shands Women's Advantage Program's annual community health fair at the Hilton UF Hotel and Conference Center on Thursday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 3:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 3:57 p.m.

Sonal Patel, a pharmacist at Shands at the University of Florida, learned how to brush her teeth properly at the annual Shands community health fair last year.

Instead of brushing across the teeth, like a lot of people do, you use the brush up and down, starting from the gum-line and scooping upwards on the bottom teeth and downwards on the top teeth, Patel, 43, explained.

"I do think about that every time I brush my teeth," Patel said as she stood in line for an ankle brachial index (ABI) vascular screening test on Thursday morning at this year's health fair at the University of Florida Hilton Hotel.

Patel said she was holding her mother's place in line for the ABI test, which gauges the circulation in legs for narrowing of the arteries. The test is recommended for people over the age of 50, especially those with risk factors such as high blood pressure, like Patel's mother.

The health fair has something for everyone. Although it is sponsored by the Women's Advantage Program and some of the booths catered to women's health, the doors were open to everyone, said Marsha Mott, the health promotion coordinator at UF&Shands who organized the health fair.

Mott said last year the fair had about 300 people attend, and she expected 400 on Thursday. People could get glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure and bone density screenings - all for free.

There were also booths on Florida's insects, poisons and nearly every medical specialty, including dermatology and dentistry.

Troy Starling, the associate director of the dermatology department at UF&Shands, was handing out SPF30 sunscreen sticks.

"Everyone grew up putting baby oil on themselves," Starling said, explaining the oil gives you a darker tan and keeps you from peeling. But education about the need to protect yourself from the sun has improved significantly, he added.

"Especially living in Florida, you should go to the dermatologist annually for a general checkup," to check suspicious moles, Starling said.

Apart from wearing sunscreen and hats, SPF makeup is increasingly popular, as are UV blocker shirts that you can buy at sports stores, Starling said.

"I wear them," Starling said. "I just don't like to burn."

Starling added that his booth is always well attended because it captures people's interest, from wanting to know about their rashes and moles, to cosmetic questions about wrinkles and photo rejuvenation.

Some people were less eager to approach the booth next to dermatology on advanced directives, or instructions on end-of-life care.

Bill Allen, a bioethics professor at UF in charge of the booth, said that advanced directives involve two things: a designated decision-maker if you can't make medical decisions for yourself; and a living will.

"Most healthy people see this as remote, but if they know someone who has been in an accident, this becomes an issue," Allen said, adding that everyone should really fill out an advanced directive, not just the chronically ill.

Some people, especially those with hypertension or smokers, were also a little reluctant to stop by the stroke booth, where they could have their stroke risk assessed, said Dolores Mauk, a nurse at the Shands Rehab Hospital.

"I'm trying to impress upon them that they need to go to the ER immediately if they have symptoms," Mauk said, explaining that stroke-blocking symptoms can prevent strokes if taken within six hours of symptoms, but they have to act quickly if they have symptoms.

"There's no rolling over and falling asleep," she said, adding that many people ignore symptoms and end up with stroke-related permanent damage and need rehab.

Probably the biggest attraction, or at least the most conspicuous one at the health fair, was a giant inflatable red colon that helped explain a range from normal colon tissue and pre-cancerous polyps to advanced cancer.

Dr. Shahnaz Sultan, a gastroenterologist for UF&Shands and the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center, said that for many people, walking through the colon helps to demystify a colonoscopy, an examination of the large and small bowel to look for cancer-causing polyps.

"It helps get them more motivated to get screened," Sultan said.

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119, or

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