Tuesday, October 26, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 46

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Men's Clinic sees increase of patients

Media helps draw attention to health issues

By Michelle Norton
Daily Cougar Staff 

A growing trend in the mass media to discuss men's health issues has increased the number of visitors to the UH Health Center's Men's Clinic.

The clinic has seen an increase in patients to about 14 a month from four a month when it was established in 1995. The clinic offers primary health care services to men on campus, including health risk screenings and prevention education.

Pete Medrano/The Daily Cougar

UH Health Center Men's Clinic nurse James Brodowski, left, checks political science doctoroal candidate Toy Casagranda's blood pressure. Growing awareness of men's health issues in the media has led to more visitors for the campus clinic.

Robert Volger, a certified nurse practitioner at the Health Center, said celebrity attention in particular has helped increase awareness of men's health issues.

"All those personalities who share their stuff with the public help men know that they should access health care more," Volger said.

The more recent celebrities who have come forward to discuss health issues include actor Michael J. Fox, who spoke to Congress in September about his fight with Parkinson's disease, and talk-show host Montel Williams, who announced in September he has multiple sclerosis.

Health Center Director Floyd Robinson Jr. said despite the trend, more could be done to make men aware of health issues. He pointed out that Fox hid his disease for a number of years before publicly announcing it, and the actor still hides the effects of the disease.

"If you notice when he spoke before Congress he kept everything under the table," Robinson said.

He pointed to Attorney General Janet Reno as an ideal public model for Parkinson's. "I think that people see her and say, 'I have the same thing,'" he said. "We are still very much in the closet with our health care issues."

A growing concern in the field of men's health is the lack of preventative steps men take. A survey by the National Men's Health Foundation, for example, found that women visit doctors 30 percent more than men do, and of those men who do go, only 23 percent are checked for prostate cancer, a condition that has received increasing attention recently.

That statistic concerns UH President Arthur K. Smith, who in 1997 was diagnosed with a very early stage of prostate cancer. Smith decided to take proactive steps in removing the cancerous cells through an operation called a radical prostatectomy.

Before undergoing the procedure, Smith wrote a memorandum to UH System faculty and staff members describing his prognosis and surgery, a move that surprised some in the UH community.

"Some people have said that they have learned more about prostate cancer than they really wanted to know," Smith said. "People were very appreciative of my candor in telling them what it was and going into the detail that I did in order to demonstrate not just what it was, but what it wasn't."

After Smith distributed the memo, Robinson decided to implement a Prostate Specific Antigen test, the test to identify prostate cancer, at the Health Center. And people responded.

"When some of the men would come into the Health Center, they would not call it a PSA test, but rather the 'Dr. Smith test,'" Robinson said.

In addition to the PSA test, the Men's Clinic also tests for diseases present in family and individual histories and educates men about sexually transmitted diseases -- the No. 1 reason men visit the clinic.

Another common reason men visit the clinic is for birth control. "It's getting the male into the mindset that it's a shared responsibility," Robinson said. "Often times, historically it's been the female's responsibility in our society."

Vogler said the men who visit the clinic are becoming increasingly informed about possible health problems they are having.

"They will have accessed the Internet or Web pages, so they are coming in with information about what their problem may be," he said.

Despite the growing number of men who visit the Men's Clinic, however, Robinson said there are still those who ignore potential risks and refuse to seek treatment. He told the story of a man who had breast cancer and ignored the warning signs until his wife asked him to go to the doctor. He found out the cancer had spread, and he died a year later.

"I want more men to know everything we can possibly know," Robinson said. "We spend thousands of dollars on our automobiles and we don't mind doing that, but we won't get symptoms checked."

For more information on the Men's Clinic, call (713) 743-5151. Patients are seen by appointment twice a week.

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