Free health screenings for lawmakers, Capitol employees

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Larrison Campbell, Mississippi Today

Capitol employees line up to have their eyes checked at University of Mississippi’s ophthalmology booth during Mississippi Health Day Thursday.

It’s not every day at the Capitol that you see a member of the House step onto a scale, in full view.

But on Thursday morning, Rep. Mac Huddleston, R-Pontotoc, did just that. He also had his cholesterol and blood pressure screened, and when he got the results, he was pleasantly surprised.

Larrison Campbell, Mississippi Today

Rep. Mac Huddleston, R-Pontotoc, steps on a scale as a nurse from MEA Medical Clinics records his weight during Mississippi Health Day Thursday.

“I sent them to my son in medical school, and he said, ‘I’m proud of you,'” Huddleston said. “Everybody ought to do this.”

Everybody at the Capitol had the opportunity on Thursday. The Capitol Screening Initiative, now in its 12th year, gives all Capitol employees and members of the Legislature access to dozens of health screenings, from basics such as blood pressure and cholesterol to a $600 kidney function test — all for free.

“Lots of times they’re going so fast through life, they don’t have time to stop and get screened,” said Angela Ladner, a member of the Mississippi State Medical Association Alliance, which organizes the event each year. “The people who are holding the whole building up here have to have good access to care.”

The annual event has major benefits for Capitol staff in particular, Ladner said. Since the event began they have diagnosed one case of male breast cancer, one case of female breast cancer and someone who was moments from having a heart attack. That person was quickly rushed to the hospital.

“So we know we are literally saving lives,” Ladner said.

Larrison Campbell, Mississippi Today

Winfred Crane, sergeant-at-arms for the House of Representatives, said he was glad he participated in Mississippi Health Day Thursday after a routine eye exam turned up a borderline case of glaucoma in one of his eyes.

On Thursday morning, Winfred Crane, sergeant-at-arms for the House of Representatives, sat down for what should have been a routine round of screenings. As he expected, his iron, cholesterol and diabetes tests all came back normal. But he was caught off guard when an ophthalmologist from University of Mississippi Medical Center told him his right eye tested borderline for glaucoma.

“And I didn’t know before today,” Crane said.

Crane said he plans to make a follow-up appointment with UMMC. And for UMMC ophthalmologist Dr. William Watkins, cases like Crane’s underline the benefits to the Capitol Screening Initiative.

“Glaucoma is a silent condition. It doesn’t cause symptoms until it causes problems,” Watkins said. “So early detection is important.”

Watkins said if the condition is caught early, treatment can successfully head it off.

The Capitol Screening Initiative has its roots in Mississippi Health Day. During his first year in office, former Gov. Haley Barbour declared the third Thursday in January Mississippi Health Day. Ladner said that day seemed like a natural fit.

In past years, the Capitol Screening Initiative has served approximately 150 people. But it’s growing, according to Heather Rifkin with the Mississippi Medical Association Alliance.

“This is a record year for us,” Rifkin said. “We asked for 40 tables, and we have over 30 exhibitions. Each year it grows a little more.”