Celebrity Physician Provides Advice, Free Physicals
Carolyn Jones just happened to be watching television when she learned that Oz would be in Washington, D.C. She wasted no time in making sure that she would be one of the first to arrive at Howard University to take full advantage of his visit.
Jones, 51, of Dumfries, Va., counted as one of more than 800 who showed up at the Numa P.G. Adams Building on the university's Northwest campus the morning of Wednesday, September 5. Most came to participate in Dr. Mehmet Oz's Washington D.C. 15-Minute Physical, while others sought to catch a glimpse of the celebrity physician made famous by talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
"I was getting ready for work and I saw it [advertised] on Fox 5 News. I jumped onto my computer and signed up. I received an email that same day that said that I was registered. So I went and bragged to everybody," Jones said with a laugh.
Fifty-year-old D.C. resident Shawn Wilkins savored the experience.
"Dr. Oz actually came to my table and interviewed me," an elated Wilkins said. "It was an added bonus that I just didn't expect. It was a good experience."
While meeting Oz proved to be one of the perks, the event focused on having individuals become more proactive in improving their health and encouraging them to adopt healthy lifestyles. In many cases, African Americans in the District of Columbia rank poorly on a range of social indicators including poverty and health. Pockets of the community are plagued by obesity, diabetes, heart problems and related issues, and those individuals are the object of renewed focus by local and national health officials.
The free physical examinations included blood pressure tests, body mass index, cholesterol, glucose and vital statistics. Patients also received post-test counseling from university physicians who offered medical advice and proposed solutions based on each individual's diagnosis.
Howard transformed the medical college's main foyer into a mobile phlebotomy unit, with the atmosphere inside the building rivaling that of a small hospital. Howard University medical students scurried about as they administered a battery of tests to patients and also explained the benefits of living an active and healthy lifestyle.
Of the hundreds of patients who came to see and meet Oz, the reasons for their presence varied. A number of participants said they received valuable medical testing and information. Juniors Thompson was among those tested.
Thompson said that while some African-American men assiduously avoid trips to the doctor, he has no problem doing so. He chuckled, saying he's no stranger to his doctor's office.
"African-American males are a little hesitant about seeing physicians," said Thompson, 65, a District resident. "To take it upon myself to do this proved to be very fruitful. Things at my age need to be checked and [worked on]. I appreciate the fact that Dr. Oz extends this program all over the country and it really helps everybody out a lot."
Brandon Henry agreed.
"The turnout today was awesome," said Henry, 30, a fourth-year medical student. "I didn't really know what to expect but it's just been amazing to see the turnout between the medical side and the community side. I think that a lot of people found out some good information and some found out some things that weren't. But it's good that they found that out now so that they can make some adjustments."
Howard University security officials positioned steel barricades in front of its medical college and dispatched two security guards to first control and then turn away visitors last Wednesday. The massive crowd that formed in front of the building continued to swell with people anxiously waiting to get a consultation with the doctor.
Organizers began turning those without appointments away 45 minutes before the scheduled closing as occupancy reached maximum capacity. Organizers said the numbers in D.C. are the highest of all stops made so far on Oz's national tour.
Fox 5 and Howard University partnered to bring Oz's Washington D.C. 15 Minute Physical to the District. Advertising of the event on the news station that ran several weeks prior to the event allowed viewers to make appointments to secure their spots.
"I think that they did a wonderful job. Especially with the number of people that came out today," said Chantise Shark, 43, who lives in Ft. Washington, Md. "Everything went smoothly and it was exciting."
As the testing came to a close, Howard medical students and staff trickled into one of the building's classrooms for a press conference conducted by Oz and other medical experts to discuss the day's activities.
Health officials collected real-time statistical data of patients' results throughout the day and that information will be entered into a District of Columbia health report card. Those results were revealed during the press conference.
While the District performed better than any other city in the nation in turnout, it lags far behind other cities in obesity, diabetes and sleep deprivation. But with increased awareness and the application of proper prevention methods, Oz said, those numbers don't have to remain the same.
"We're going to win [the fight for health] with these types of events," Oz said. "One hundred people an hour came through these doors and wholeheartedly believe that they received information that was helpful to them and they got advice from world-class experts about what to do with that information."