Mary Louise Capers, treasurer of the Nannie Bell Missionary Society at Mount Moriah A.M.E church in Annapolis, had been looking for an activity to plan for her church when she was diagnosed in July with sarcoidosis, a disease that often attacks the lungs.
It didn't take long for her to decide on a health fair, not only to provide information for other black people, but also to learn more about her own rare disease.
"I think that everyone should be aware of these diseases, and they should know how to go about trying to prevent and treat them as well," she said.
On Saturday, several health professionals gave short talks to about 50 people, most of them women, on a variety of subjects from booths in the church hall.
Marjorie Wingate, a pharmacist from Greensboro, N.C., explained sarcoidosis; Dr. Debra Cartwright, a gynecologist at the Weems Creek Medical Center in West Annapolis, talked about breast cancer; Dr. Valli Meeks, a Baltimore dentist, spoke about AIDS; and Judith Branham, a medical social worker for the county Health Department, addressed the problems of teen-age pregnancy.
Dr. Dennis Hall, a cardiologist at the Anne Arundel Medical Center, spoke on heart diseases, and Fay Anderson, a cancer medicine specialist at that hospital, explained the problems of prostate cancer, which is especially prevalent in African American males over 40.
Most of those attending the fair were women. The older ones spent most of their time at the heart disease and breast cancer booths, while the younger crowd tended to favor the teen-age pregnancy and AIDS stations.
"I think I liked the teen-age pregnancy talk the best, but I also enjoyed the breast cancer [seminar]," said Maneka Wade, a 16-year-old junior at Old Mill. "I know a lot of older people say, 'You're too young to be worried about stuff like that,' but it's never too early to be informed."
Dr. Meeks preached abstinence and safe sex to avoid infection with the virus that causes AIDS, and Dr. Cartwright presented a videotape on self-examination for breast cancer.
Ms. Anderson stressed the importance of self-examinations that enable men to detect prostate cancer early, and Ms. Branham distributed a pamphlet that illustrated creative ways of saying no to sex while offering advice on prenatal care for teen-agers who are pregnant.
Ms. Wingate explained that sarcoidosis, which is not contagious, can attack almost any part of the body but often is characterized by a dry cough, shortness of breath and weight loss.
Ms. Capers, 58, a marketing education teacher at Old Mill Senior High School, lost 22 pounds with the disease and developed a severe cough. She has been able to control the symptoms with regular treatment and medication.
Yesterday, she called the fair "very successful" and promised that next year she would "try to schedule it before the Christmas [shopping] season so more people will be able to take advantage of the program."