Saturday, December 4, 2021
Marlene Quaroni - Florida Catholic
Photography: MARLENE QUARONI | FC
HALLANDALE | Past health fairs at St. Matthew Church have been life-saving events.
“One person had melanoma, and another had very high blood pressure and serious heart disease; another didn’t know they had diabetes,” said Father Robert Ayala, St. Matthew’s pastor, during the parish’s fourth annual Health Fair, held Nov. 21, 2021 at the Hallandale church. “I know that a lot of people don’t have health insurance. We brought vendors together to distribute information. Some people didn’t realize that they could get Medicare or Medicaid.”
Last year, the health fair was put on hold because of COVID-19. This year, some participants had to use a nearby classroom building to keep people at a safe distance in the parish hall.
Eva Hart, a parishioner in charge of the event, noted the various health-related providers at the fair: physician assistants from Barry University checking blood pressure, glucose, pulse and oxygen levels; health insurance vendors; a respect life display; a dermatologist; Walmart pharmacy technicians administering COVID-19 booster shots; two Big Red buses for blood donations; and a physician, Dr. Gabriel Florez, who offers lower-priced health care at his clinic to low-income patients without insurance.
Dr. Florez said that he incorporates God in his practice. He worked for a large health care provider and decided to open his own clinic 13 years ago.
“I asked God to help me create my own clinic,” said Dr. Florez of the Buen Pastor Medical Center in Hollywood. “God even helped me choose my clinic’s name. We have six doctors and three dentists. We even help with immigrants’ paperwork.”
Dr. Cynthia Golomb, a dermatologist, volunteered skin screenings in a private room.
“In the past I found two people with melanomas,” she said. “Today, I found six basal cell cancers. I have seen people with rashes, nail problems, sun exposure problems. If I see something suspicious, I recommend that they go to see a dermatologist for a biopsy.”
The health fair ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., coinciding with most of the Sunday Masses to make attendance very convenient for parishioners. Dr. Golomb said that she saw about 40 patients by the time she left.
“The health fair has saved people’s lives,” said parishioner and lector Henry Flood, echoing Father Ayala’s words. “Like the Salvation Army slogan, heart to God and hand to man. The Church must be in the community and do what it’s supposed to do. That’s why we do these events. Evangelism is so important.”
Every first Friday, St. Matthew Church celebrates a healing Mass in the morning and a health provider is outside the church to hand out information on their services.
“I think that more churches should have health fairs like this,” said Father Ayala. “At least, it gives basic information to many people who don’t have access to doctors.”