Kay Barnes exercises three times a week and has no major health worries, but she decided to get checked for her risk of stroke anyway.
"Whenever there is a clinic I feel like I can benefit from … I like to go," the 72-year-old retired teacher's assistant said.
Barnes was one of more than 40 men and women from Tarboro, Rocky Mount and surrounding towns who attended a stroke risk screening Feb. 13 at the Edgecombe County Human Services Building. The event was led by students from the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, specifically the school's Brody Scholars.
"It's really important to each of us individually," said Jordan Priess, a fourth-year medical student at ECU. "To get together as a group and do it as the Brody Scholars is certainly important to us but important to the Brody family. It's sort of their goal that we give back to the community."
Pictured above, Brody Scholar Jordan Priess, left, works with Kay Barnes at an Edgecombe County stroke clinic. Pictured at the top of page, Brody medical student Bryan Howington examines Louise Ricks. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)
The Brody Medical Scholarship provides full tuition and fees to incoming medical students who show high scholarship ability, leadership, a desire for service, moral character and a promise of distinction in medicine. The program shares the goals of the medical school to improve the health and quality of life for people in eastern North Carolina.
The four-hour event included a free stroke-risk screening, blood pressure measurement, cholesterol assessment, blood glucose screening, a cardiovascular screening and a review of risk factors. Local health center representatives were available to follow up with participants determined to be at high risk for stroke or other diseases.
In Edgecombe County, the age-adjusted death rate from cerebrovascular disease from 2006 to 2010 was 96.1 deaths per 100,000 people, more than twice the rate for the state as a whole and the highest rate in the state, according to the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics.
Nikki Wooten, chronic disease self-management program assistant with Edgecombe County Human Services, worked with the Brody Scholars to organize and carry out the event.
"They were excellent, and we would not have been able to provide that without them and the stroke network," she said.
"Edgecombe County sits high in the state and in the nation for stroke, so it was nice to be able to get some people screened."
In addition to being valuable for the public, the event was also valuable for the students. "Starting as a first-year (student), this is some of the first real-life experience you have with people who aren't actors," Priess said, referring to the training students receive with "standardized patients."
In the second year, students are learning disease pathology and are able to apply classroom lessons. In the third- and fourth-years, she said, clinics such as the one in Tarboro help students practice taking patient histories, talking with them and performing routine tests.
Barnes said she likes interacting with the students. "They're sweet and energetic, very pleasing," she said. "We're glad to have them. I feel like (working at the clinic) will enhance what they do later on," she said.
Barnes also said one of her sons had a heart attack at age 40. She and her husband, she said, "are trying to make sure we are good influences" by getting their health checked regularly.
Another participant, Gail Tucker, said her mother and two aunts died of strokes. "I know there's a possibility the same thing could happen to me," she said.
Presenters and sponsors of the stroke screening event were the Eastern North Carolina Stroke Network, Vidant Edgecombe Hospital, the Brody School of Medicine and the Brody Foundation. Organizers are hoping to make it an annual Brody Scholar project.
The Brody Medical Scholarship was established in 1983 by the family of J.S "Sammy" Brody. It is administered by the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation.