Community center becomes checkup central

Glendale's Pacific Community Center became a doctor's office Saturday as hundreds of people had their eyes, blood and balance checked at the inaugural Glendale Health Festival.

People from around the region filled the gym as doctors, nurses, physical therapists and others offered their services for free. Dr. Vicken Sepilian, chair of the event, said he was pleased with the support of local hospitals and doctors, as well as the enthusiasm of the public.

"We have a great turnout," he said. "I'm very encouraged to see that most people here are taking the preventative tests."

Signs in English and Armenian guided attendees toward the specialists they were interested in. Announcements in Armenian, English and Spanish touted lectures on nutrition and other topics in a nearby conference room.

Hellen Galstyan of Glendale is a nurse at North Hills Hospital in San Fernando. She attended on her day off to help a relative.

"I came because of my aunt," she said. "She's complaining about her breast and she doesn't have insurance."

Eduardo Olmos of North Hollywood heard about the festival on the radio and came to get a full checkup. He, too, lacks health insurance.

"I came down for all the tests," he said.

Nareg Minaskeian, a Glendale native and medical student at St. George's University in the West Indies, said the effort isn't meant to replace regular visits with the doctor.

"What we're doing here is just giving people the basics on what they need to work on and what their doctors need to work on with them," he said.

In one corner of the gym, groups of people stood 15 or so feet from the wall, staring at eye charts and calling out the letters they could read.

"We've actually gotten more people than I expected," said Marissa Tessman, a Glendale Community College student who volunteered to help at the Glendale Lions' Club eye care booth.

She was busy keeping lines orderly and stopping people from wandering into the space between the eye charts and those trying to read them.

The Armenian American Medical Society of California and the city of Glendale sponsored the event, with major support from Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, Glendale Adventist Medical Center and Glendale Urgent Care Pharmacy.

Adam Bakir of Glendale came with his wife and two children. Bakir's family has health insurance, he said, but the festival helps him focus on health priorities.

"It causes you to test yourself, otherwise you wouldn't do it on your own," Bakir said.

Sepilian said the focus on promoting healthy practices spilled over into the menu for the free lunch provided at tables outside the center.

"Grilled chicken, brown rice, mixed vegetables, a banana, and an apple a day to keep the doctor away," he said.

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