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  October 14, 2002

Speakers Taking Health Care Issues to Public
By Pat Keefe

Real-time video or webcasts notwithstanding, the most effective form of communication is still person-to-person.

Reactions to the Health Center's Speakers' Bureau bear testimony to that.

Jennie Muzyk, president of the Adult Social Club of New Britain, described Dr. J. Antonelle DeMarcaida, who gave a speech to the club on Parkinson's Disease in September, as "the best speaker ever."

Thea Middleton, acting director of the Salvation Army Senior Center in Farmington, wrote to thank the Health Center for a presentation by Dr. Syed Zaidi. "The 'Silent Signs of Stroke' seminar ... was wonderful," she wrote. "The seniors really appreciated the question-and-answer period. Many of them mentioned that Dr. Zaidi was very patient and thorough in responding to their questions."

The recently revived speakers bureau has a burgeoning collection of speakers, a growing list of dates, and increasing interest from social, civic, fraternal, and business groups.

"It's a wonderful way to connect with the community," says Maureen McGuire, manager of clinical marketing. "There's always a need in the community for good health information and we have the experts and expertise to supply it. It's a great opportunity for us to learn what's on people's minds in terms of healthcare, but also for them to learn about the scope of services at the Health Center."

Since Oct. 1, faculty and staff have spoken at eight locations, from Fairfield to Wethersfield to Hartford to Farmington, on such topics as smoking prevention, hormone replacement therapy, breast cancer, complementary medicine, healthy aging, and nutrition and osteoporosis. Church groups and seniors have scheduled engagements, but so too have law firms and businesses.

The speakers' reasons for participating in the bureau vary, but education is dominant. Dr. Kristen Zarfos, assistant professor of surgery and medical director, women's specialty health programs, spoke about breast cancer to 35 Fleet Bank/Fleet Capital employees in Farmington on Oct. 3.

"Our faculty is committed to education," says Zarfos. "Not only the education of medical and dental students, but the education of the community. We have a responsibility to equip them with the facts and empower them to be an effective part of their own health care."

Dr. Joseph Walsh, associate professor and an ob-gyn specialist with UConn Health Partners, spoke about hormone replacement therapy to an audience of 50 at Fleet Bank in Hartford on Oct. 8.

"It's important to address the community," he says, "it helps fulfill our educational mission. As the state's medical school, we have an obligation not only to our students but also to the people of the state and the community at large. It's always a good feeling to educate people and help them resolve issues that are current, such as hormone replacement therapy and what to do about it."

Program coordinator Terri Cavo says the speakers bureau is an outreach initiative similar to the Discovery Series, the annual series of lectures showcasing the Health Center's clinical programs. Like giving one of the Discovery lectures, participating in the speakers bureau is an act of commitment because it is time-consumin g and the rewards are limited to earnest thanks from the audience and a well-deserved sense of personal gratification.

"The faculty participating are interested in performing a service for the community," she says. "It is a complimentary service. They do it on their own time and are not compensated for it. But it is a great way of informing the public of medical advances and all the many things we offer at the Health Center."

Adds Zarfos: "For me personally, we've hit a home run if my talk stimulates a person to obtain a mammogram, start an exercise program, or change their diet overall. It's just that simple."

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