“This is my third time getting screened,” said Regina Greene, a lifelong Washington, D.C. resident. Stroke Screening Day, held on May 10 this year, is part of Greene’s regular check-up. “I have high blood pressure and a history of stroke in my family,” said Greene. “The doctor told me I need to cut out the fat and salt and eat more fruits and veggies.” As the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a stroke claims a life every four minutes.
The annual event, hosted by GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), the GW Hospital, and the GW Medical Faculty Associates (MFA), is designed to help individuals identify their risk factors for stroke. “It is a great way to get people out and give back to the community,” said Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, G.M.E. ’85, vice president for health affairs and dean of SMHS.
“There are so many individuals in the Washington, D.C. area who are unaware that they have high blood pressure or diabetes, or low cholesterol,” says Kathleen Burger, D.O., assistant professor of neurology at SMHS, stroke program director at GW Hospital, and director of cerebrovascular neurology at the MFA. Burger worked with Mary Rodrigazo, R.N. stroke program coordinator at GW Hospital, to plan the event. “These conditions are much easier to fix now than if a person has a stroke later.” Burger and her fellow GW physicians, nurses, and residents provided free stroke risk evaluations and educated community members and passersby. Clinicians checked pulse and blood pressure, reviewed the participants’ personal and family medical history, and shared information about how to recognize and respond to stroke. Roughly 100 people were screened during the event.
Josie Fayson has always been proactive about her health. Part of her routine for staying healthy has been getting screened at GW’s Stroke Screening Day each spring. “I learned to keep doing what I’m doing — eat healthy and be mindful and watchful of the symptoms.” At 83 years old, Fayson’s risk of having a stroke are significantly greater because her mother suffered one earlier this year. “The doctor stressed to get to the emergency room if I experience any signs or symptoms because of my family history,” she said.
Teaching people how to identify the warning signs and symptoms of stroke is perhaps the most important part of the annual event, according to Burger. “Even patients who have no risk of stroke can benefit from our education because they may be able to help a family member someday.”
When Greg Askew walked by and saw the sign for free stroke screening he knew he had to check it out. “I think we should always take advantage of free resources in the area,” he said. “GW Hospital is always my first choice when I need care. Today was a blessing in disguise for me to stop and get looked at.” Askew found out his blood pressure was a lot higher than he thought and learned what preventive measures he can take to reduce his risk of stroke.
Clinicians advised participants exhibiting high blood pressure to follow-up with their primary care doctor. Those without doctors were given contact information for the MFA. “Everybody needs a little check-up every now and again,” said Askew.