Pearl River Community College’s first Women’s Health Symposium

Published 3:20 pm Thursday, January 25, 2007

Almost 200 women — and one or two men — packed into the Pearl River Community College Wellness Center Saturday for the college’s first Women’s Health Symposium.

Drawn by a variety of free health screenings and the opportunity to learn about several health-related topics, the participants left with tote bags, cookbooks and advice from keynote speaker Robert St. John.

A restaurateur and chef, St. John said he has learned that faith, family, friends and food make life fun. He told his audience to make time for sit-down meals and invite neighbors or friends to share the food and fellowship.

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The symposium began with health screenings, any one of which would have cost participants more than the $20 registration fee.

Eleanor Burge drove from Laurel to attend the symposium because, she said, her doctor had encouraged her to get a bone density test. The screening was provided by Hattiesburg Clinic.

In addition to screenings of blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, vision, hearing and pulse oximetry, massage therapy student Michelle Whitaker gave chair massages and students in the PRCC barber program provided manicures.

“I’ve enjoyed it … all of it’s beneficial,” said Sue Franks of McLaurin.

Each participant chose to attend two of six breakout sessions on health-related legal issues, stress management, healthy relationships, dealing with Alzheimer’s, vision and women’s heart health.

“Everyone appeared to thoroughly enjoy the day and plans are already being discussed for our symposium next year,” said Dr. Becky Askew, PRCC planning officer and chair of the symposium steering committee. “The members of the Women’s Health Symposium committee certainly appreciate the sponsors, speakers, health-care professionals and businesses who contributed so much to ensure that the symposium was a great success.”

PRCC’s highly-ranked health care programs on the Poplarville campus and at the Allied Health Center at the Forrest County Center made hosting a health symposium a natural fit, said PRCC president William Lewis.

“It just occurred to us that we ought to have some kind of annual even that focused on health and wellness,” he said.

Following the breakout sessions, the symposium moved to the Olivia Bender Cafeteria where St. John talked about his careers as executive chef and owner of Purple Parrot Café, Crescent City Grill and Mahogany Bar and as the author of several books on cooking and Southern life.

“If you’re going to write a cookbook, the recipe testing is the best part,” he said.

Platinum sponsors of the symposium were the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation, Forrest General Hospital and Sodexho. Silver sponsors were BankPlus, Chain Electric Co., First National Bank of Picayune and Poplarville, Mississippi Power Co., Southern Bone and Joint Specialists and Wachovia. Bronze sponsors were Blossman Propane Gas and Appliance, Hattiesburg Clinic and Wesley Medical Center.

Blossman Propane Gas and Appliance donated a gas grill as the grand door prize. Businesses in Poplarville providing door prizes were Apples Ltd., Baker Maid Products, Bill’s Fried Chicken, Bubba John’s Seafood and Steak Restaurant, Deb’s Pizza and Pasta House, Faye’s Fine Jewelry, Hair by Byrle, Longleaf Farm and Garden, Main Street Florist and Gifts, O’Neal’s Resta-