Laurel Regional Hospital health fair

Dr. Daniel Melnick, of Laurel Lakes Cosmetic Dentistry, performs an oral cancer screening on a participant at Laurel Regional Hospital's free health fair Oct. 25. (Photo courtesy of Dimensions Healthcare / October 29, 2013)

The main floor of Laurel Regional Hospital was bustling with activity Friday, Oct. 25 as people stood in lines to get a wide range of free health screenings provided by doctors and other medical specialists.

Brochures, pamphlets, medical equipment and giveaways lined tables set up throughout the main floor's hallways and were manned by medical specialists. Large rooms were used for screenings as well as areas of the hospital's fifth floor.

By lunch time, nearly 30 people had received hearing screenings given by doctors from Laurel-based Hearing Professionals, set up on a table in a hallway just off the main lobby.

"We've had a constant flow of people, which is awesome," said the company's marketing representative, Mary Moeder. "I've had to tell a few people to come back because I had to give my doctors a break to eat lunch," she added as another elderly gentleman approached the table.

According to hospital officials, more than 500 people showed up for the all-day event, where more than 40 different health stations were set up. The free health fair was held to celebrate Laurel Regional Hospital's 35th anniversary.

The fair was sponsored by the hospital in conjunction with Majic 102.3FM radio station and the "Take A Loved One to the Doctor" campaign — a health drive created by nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner, whose morning show airs on 102.3.

The event kicked off at 11 a.m. and went until 6 p.m., with Majic 102.3's on-air personalities on site to do live interviews with hospital doctors and officials throughout the day.

Friends Lee Hobbs and Rita Tanner said they arrived a half-hour before it started and spent the day going from station to station.

"We did them all. I love health fairs," said Hobbs, who said her test results were good. However, Tanner's were mixed.

"My glucose is good, but my cholesterol is up and my blood pressure is up a bit," Tanner said.

"When I get home, I'm going to make an appointment with my doctor who will probably tell me to exercise," she added with a laugh.

They were lucky that they arrived early because by lunch time, the lines were 10 deep at the long table where people were having their fingers pricked for the glucose and cholesterol tests.

Erika Murray, vice president of marketing and public relations for Dimensions Healthcare Systems, Laurel Regional's parent company, was glad to see the lines and heavy turnout.

"We want the community to know the importance of preventive health care and screening and diagnosing problems because early detection is important," Murray said. "Also, through this fair, people can get a medical professional if they don't have one and be seen by that doctor on a regular basis, so an illness won't turn into a serious problem."

Dr. Daniel Melnick agreed and said he'd screened more than 100 people by 1 p.m. that day for oral cancer. In addition to looking inside people's mouths and feeling their neck glands, he used an instrument called a velscope in his screenings.

"This instrument uses fluorescent lighting to enhance things so I can tell the difference between normal and abnormal cells," Melnick said. "In the past, these screenings were done mainly in detecting oral cancer in older people who smoked or drank a lot. But now the demographics have changed and spread to younger people who are getting oral cancer through oral sex. That's another reason women should get their HPV vaccines."

Down the hall in one large room, soothing music played in a corner where six-minute chair massages were done as people continued to sign up on the therapist's long wait list. Close by, Roosevelt Sava offered free condoms and HIV tests at his station.

"I'm using the rapid HIV testing that will give people their results within 15 minutes," Sava said. "We don't draw blood, but the test is 99.9 percent accurate. I've done eight so far, and have not had any positive results. If I did, that person would be sent to have blood drawn (elsewhere) to get a confirmation."

Other screenings involved the lungs, teeth, eyes, sleep patterns, feet and heart, as well as performance tests for the elderly to determine their balance abilities.

"They had to walk a distance and were timed because they had to do it within a certain time," Murray said. "These physical performance tests determined their fall risk, balance and gait."

In addition, information on pregnancy, domestic violence the dangers of smoking and nutrition were available. On the fifth floor of the hospital, 45-minute CPR sessions were held hourly, along with Zumba classes and healthy cooking demonstrations.

According to Murray, the event had a dual role. It provided free services to the community and also served as a way for people to see the quality of services available at Laurel Regional. For many years, hospital officials have worked to shed an image many people had of Laurel Regional being a second-rate facility.

"This is an opportunity for those not familiar with Laurel Regional to check us out, get free services and get to know the hospital before a need occurs," Murray says. "This all aligns nicely with our 35th anniversary."