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Striking Down Stroke

The line for free stroke screenings in the Ross Hall courtyard, May 6, provided a snapshot of Washington, D.C.’s eclectic foot traffic. The steady stream of attendees — who added up to 303 by the event’s close — were businesspeople, construction workers, retired couples, students, and tourists.

Some had marked their calendars months ago for the service; others were spontaneously lured to it as they exited the Foggy Bottom Metro station. In this case, the saying proved true: if you build it, they will come.

“We were really happy to have such a tremendous turnout for the free stroke screening,” said Lisa McDonald, director of Marketing for The George Washington University Hospital, which co-hosted the event along with the GW Medical Center and the GW Medical Faculty Associates (MFA).

“I think all who attended gained valuable information about their own risks for stroke and learned how to react in cases when stroke symptoms may appear,” she added. “We were proud to be able to give the community direct access to GW’s wonderful doctors and nurses and to help spread the word about this common — but deadly — disease.”

Each evaluation was conducted by a volunteer doctor, resident, or nurse from the GW Hospital or MFA, and included a blood pressure screening and an assessment of personal and family risk factors for stroke. Conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, and atrial fibrillation; as well as uncontrollable factors like being male, African American, or over 55 years old, all put people at increased risk for stroke — the third most common killer of Americans.

Participants were taught how to recognize symptoms of stroke like drooping facial features and slurred speech. The faster the symptoms are recognized, the better the outcome.

“I learned that if you notice a symptom, you should rush to the hospital. It’s better to check it out than to wait until it’s too late,” said David Tsai, a retired resident of Northwest D.C., who read about the event in the Washington Post and attended the event with his wife, who has a family history of stroke.

“This is wonderful community service,” he added. 

The clinicians, too, found the morning both rewarding and fun. “This is a wonderful experience — not just for me, but for GW and for the community” said Maria Mountassir, R.N. “It’s great to be able to educate people about the signs and symptoms of stroke.”

Mountassir found that many of the people she evaluated even asked about next year’s event. “One woman said she was going to bring all of her girlfriends next year! People are already looking forward to us doing this again.”