Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
Over 1,000 visitors and almost 200 volunteers including specialists in pediatrics, gynecology, cardiology, optometry and endocrinology descended on the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Irving to participate in the 11th Annual Community Health Fair on Oct. 6. The event offered a day of free check-ups, tests and seminars promoting preventative health.
“These types of health fairs are very much needed and bring various specialists under one roof to provide a one stop shop for preliminary medical screening,” said Chris Wallace, President and CEO of the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce.
The fair’s host, BAPS Charities, is an international organization that aims at helping underprivileged parts of the world with both emergency and long-term medical solutions. Dedicated to the spirit of service, BAPS places their primary focus on the South Asian and Indian communities, although this spirit extends far beyond those demographics to anyone in need.
Inside the mandir doctors and equipment were crammed into the officers, and the side corridors were filled with people waiting patiently in line to be checked.
“It’s to maximize the use of the facility,” said Amit Patel, a member of mandir and one of the event’s volunteers. “It is very difficult to give everybody an office type environment where you have a one on one doctor meeting in a non medical facility. This is a church type facility, and we’ve adapted every single room to help at least one or two people and to make sure everything flows well.”
With a crowd of 1,220 flowing through the mandir that day, the event was a well planned, logistical feat.
“We provide free services to the participants who may not have any access to either health care or insurance or [who have] high deductibles,” said, Ajit Dave, a local oncologist and the event’s organizer.
“The concept here is we don’t just want to bring people in; we want to give them something so when they go they feel they are benefitting. For example: flu shots. If you go out to get a flu shot, most health fairs do charge some,” Ajit said, proudly expounding on what made the BAPS health fair unique. “Because we have Dallas County’s support, we are able to make it free; bone density: normally a $200 test. The hospital who is our grand sponsor made it free for us. So many things we brought here you don’t find anywhere else. They are very sophisticated tests – cardiogram, ultrasound – those things are so highly sophisticated nobody can offer it because each test can cost $450.”
Ajit went on the explain some of the ways that BAPS was able to furnish such high quality services.
“If a drug rep comes to my office, I talk to them about the health fair,” he said. “I tell them I’ll have a 100 physicians. The say, ‘OK, we’ll be happy to pitch in a little bit; we’ll give them a break.’ They sponsor it, and they get to meet a 100 doctors under one roof in one day. They love it. Even Sam’s and Walmart, they want to pitch in for the community.”
Ajit was also very proud of the children’s clinic they organized this year.
“Kids, people take them for granted. Until they are sick, a lot of times they don’t even see a doctor,” Ajit commented sadly on the state of so many children today. “We not only offer talks about childhood problems like illnesses, but also so many things that concern growing up: eating, cleanliness, safety. We have the police department talking to kids about 911. We have fire safety, dental, vision and hearing, all for children.”
One of the participants, Hershad Bhavsar, drove four hundred miles in order to access the top tier care available at the health fair.
“The level of care is very intimate. Everyone is so caring; they will answer any question you might have. So the care is top notch,” Bhavsar said.
Bhavsar described why it was worth driving four hundred miles to come to the event.
“First of all there are plenty of tests which are being offered, they are reasonably priced and in some cases there is no cost at all. Not only that, it is a very well organized, very well planned event,” he said. “There are so many volunteers, physicians and the nursing staff which will take care of you. Once you walk in this place – let’s say there are four or five different tests you need to be performed – you probably will be out in a couple of hours.”
One thing that definitely helped the BAPS to create this event is a strong community at the mandir. Many of the volunteers are members who often help the community, and it was obvious that the spirit of service they have for each other extends to the community at large.