By Surekha Vijh (Source Article Link)
WASHINGTON: A beautiful sunshine marked the day at Maryland Gurdwara on Sunday, normally a place for religious activities, but it turned out a day of charity and care, set up by volunteer doctors and health organizations. A large number of attendees got themselves checked in free at the open health fair held at the Guru Nanak Foundation of America (GNFA) for the first time.
Punjabis known by their generous nature, showed their true caring side. Inside the Sikh (temple) Gurudwara, a wonderful kirtan ( singing devotional songs) was in progress and a community feast (langer) was served without cost. At the same time, a large number of physicians and associations worked tirelessly, outdoors, to provide health care services for a large umber of attendees. Otherwise, they would not have been able to afford health insurance or regular checkups. Among the attendee patients many included older people.
“This health fair not only saved us time in comparison to how so many days pass on by until your parents get to see different specialists,” said Kavita Dawar, who brought her 80-year-old father from Virginia for checkup. “But it has empowered them to be advocates for their own health.”
An easy access to various facilities provided a special interest among the crowd. There was an efficient triaging of patients to either primary care, or to a dozen medical specialties, and/or to the impressive group of 32 vendors housed under an enormous 40 x 60 foot tent.
In addition to primary care, the medical specialties available for on-site, free consultations in a privacy setting included cardiology, dentistry, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology-oncology, nephrology, neurology, otolaryngology, orthopedics, radiology, rheumatology and podiatry.
The initial kick off to the Health Fair was one week prior to this on September 7, 2014. Quest Diagnostics sponsored 250 free labs at GNFA that screened for Complete Blood Count (CBC), Complete Metabolic Panel (CMP), Hemoglobin A1c for diabetes screening, Lipid Panel for high cholesterol diagnosis and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) test for evaluating thyroid gland status.
All the patients then had an opportunity to return a week later, and discuss the findings of their blood work with one of the thirty three volunteer physicians present on-site. Among them were eighteen doctors of Indian origin.
“Patients whose tests found newly diagnosed diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol or other treatable conditions will surely reap long-term health benefits,” said Cardiologist Dr. Priti Kaur Sood. “By accessing the resources we have for them today will lower their overall long-term risk,” she added.
Among many valuable free services offered were bone density screening by the Asian American Health Initiative, glaucoma screening by the Society for Prevention of Blindness, hearing test and dental exam. There were many sponsored programs and facilities. Walgreens sponsored 400 free flu shots
It was not all screening and testing. The health fair also provided action, where yoga enthusiasts displayed their skills and love for healthy living. Besides yoga sessions on site, there were diabetes and cancer prevention education vendors, healthy living demos and advice booths. Mental and behavioral health information, often a taboo topic, was sensitively offered by Counselors Helping South Asians/Indians (Chai).
According to Dr. Lalita Kaul, a professor of nutrition at Howard medical school, who provided free consultation, “Obviously, health is connected to one’s diet. It is extremely important to eat healthy and exercise regularly to live long and disease free life.”
The Maryland Health Connection enrollment information to the uninsured and under-insured about their health care coverage options under the Federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and booths with information about WIC programs and Holy Cross Hospital clinics for the uninsured in Aspen Hill and Gaithersburg were deemed very informative by attendees.
A diverse array of voluntary charitable organizations such as Philippines Nurses Association, Chinese Culture and Community Center, Muslim Community Clinic Inc., Silver Spring, the Asian American Center of Frederick and the Asian American Health Initiatives, supported the Health Fair.
There was enthusiastic give back by the attendees. The INOVA blood donation mobile van was visited by a steady stream of blood donors. The Samar Group obtained bone marrow sign ups and the Washington Regional Transplant enrolled organ donors.
“The outstanding accomplishments of the day were made possible by the cohesive and dedicated collaboration of the Health Fair planning team, physicians, allied medical personnel, county and state health agencies, voluntary charitable organizations countless volunteers, GNFA management, GNFA bhai sahibs, GNFA Khalsa School and the Health Fair Advertising team as well as the support of the sangat,” said Harsharan Kaur.
On behalf of GNFA, she thanked Coordinator Mayur Mody for ‘providing excellent leadership, and inspiring us all with his vision, selfless service and indefatigable energy.
“You can see how many volunteers have worked hard to make this happen,” said Mayur Mody, who worked hard in coordinating the fair with the Chairperson of GNFA, Harsharan Kaur. The logistics team was coordinated by Dr. Charanjit Singh Khurana and assisted by Dr. Gurinder Singh and Dr. Sheena Khurana. Dr. Harminder Singh Sethi, served as Chief Medical Officer and Dr. Priti Sood headed the team of volunteers. Prabhleen Kaur Aneja coordinated blood donations. Holy Cross Hospital’s community outreach program called this a well organized and comprehensive health fair.
This was a great day to see many smiles on people’s faces. The professionals worked hard to make this happen, and their dedication and expertise paid off well in a successful venture. Patients were thankful for receiving the physicians’ undivided attention and volunteers’ compassionate nurturing throughout the day. The health fair was open to people of all different ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds.
With six hundred attendees of all hues availing themselves of multiple medical resources under one roof, the acute need for such services was apparent.
(Surekha Vijh is a Washington-based journalist and poetess)
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