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Released March 18, 2004

By Angela Cutrer

HATTIESBURG - When the "World's Largest Brain" balloon inflates for the first time early March 26 on the campus of The University of Southern Mississippi, it will be only the beginning of an exciting and fun two days of learning for community members.

Sponsored by Hattiesburg Clinic, as well as Forrest General Hospital, Wesley Medical Center and Dr. Charles Brent, the event, which investigates brain science and health, will include tents on Pride Field with ongoing activities for children and adults, students and faculty, professionals and retirees.

"I invite everyone to come to see the balloon and learn about the brain in the many displays that will surround the balloon," said Rex Gandy, dean of Southern Miss' College of Science and Technology, whose college partnered with the College of Health to bring the balloon to Hattiesburg - the only Mississippi site it will visit.

"Not only will this event help educate students and community members, but it will allow fun activities while learning to keep safe," said Dr. Joan Exline, interim dean of the College of Health. "And the balloon's going to be a lot of fun to see, too."

The nine-story, anatomically correct hot-air balloon is a way to attract community members to a common site to learn about brain health importance. The two-day event will have a little something for everyone, with more than 1,000 students on site Friday for scheduled fun opportunities, and adults invited Saturday for blood pressure screenings and other healthy activities. A schedule of events will be available in the Hattiesburg American beginning March 20.

Julie Smith, the event's coordinator, said, "A lot of rural school districts don't have science programs and we do, so this is a fantastic opportunity for students to learn about the brain."

On Friday evening, Dr. Mark J. Morrow, a Hattiesburg Clinic neurologist, will discuss dizziness and how to cope with the problem. The lecture begins at 7 p.m. in the Polymer Science Center auditorium.

From 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, an educational health fair will consist of six tents that will host a series of 15- to 20-minute educational seminars and interactive activities.

Dr. Geoffrey B. Hartwig, a neurologist with Hattiesburg Clinic, will speak on "Advances in MRI Technology in Neurological Diseases." Other Hattiesburg Clinic neurologists involved include Dr. Jose P. Fernandez Jr., Wendell R. Helveston, Dr. C. Scott Lynn, Dr. Keith W. McLarnan, and Dr. Ronald L. Schwartz, as well as neuropsychologist Andrew L. Dickson, Ph.D., and clinical health psychologist Marcia Hartwig, Ph.D.

The Head Injury Association of Mississippi will distribute 500 free helmets and Southern Miss police officer Charmaine Hill will do a bicycle safety presentation. AAA ambulance service will provide on-site education and simulations of automobile crashes.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, conducting the broadest investigation to date of U.S. sports and recreational injuries, found that about 7 million people per year seek medical advice or treatment related to physical activities, according to a Sept. 4, 2003, article in the Los Angeles Times. "Injuries in all age groups cost an estimated $500 million annually in medical services," the article noted. "The injuries translated into at least one lost school day for students in about a fifth of the cases and one or more work absences for adults"

Those numbers are part of what prompted Hattiesburg Clinic's Sports Medicine department to get involved with the balloon event and the accompanying health fair. "Sports medicine is often only associated with knee and shoulder injuries; however, sports medicine encompasses all sports-related injuries, including concussions, strains and sprains that occur in any sporting event, from football to rodeos," said Mike Williamson, director of Sports Medicine at Hattiesburg Clinic. "We hope this event will heighten awareness in our community."

Dr. Kevin B. Clement, a primary care sports medicine physician at Hattiesburg Clinic, agreed. "It is crucial for Sports Medicine at Hattiesburg Clinic to be involved in community education," he said. "Everyone, regardless of age, is susceptible to a sports-related injury. This event will allow us to focus on the prevention of head injuries, many of which can be prevented."

Dr. Brent Bevard, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Hattiesburg Clinic, added that "the Hattiesburg Clinic Sports Medicine team focuses on prevention and education as well as treatment, evaluation and rehabilitation. This event gives us the opportunity to educate our community on measures that can be taken to avoid head injuries. Education is the key to decreasing the number of head injuries our athletes experience."

Members of Hattiesburg Clinic's department of neurology are excited to be participating in this extraordinary program, said Michael Sims, manager of the department. "We continually try to educate our patients, as well as the community, on health issues, so when we were invited to participate in this program, we saw it as a great opportunity to educate and have some fun at the same time."

Wesley Medical Center representatives will be on hand to offer information, pass out goody bags, and help answer any questions attendees have about brain injury. Dr. Todd Sitzman, a fellowship-trained pain management physician, is speaking on painful CNS conditions. Dr. Charles Brent's office staff, including Beverly Tinnon, R.N., will sponsor an educational experience utilizing actual human brains to explore the parts and functions of the brain.

Gloria Smalley, R.N., and Serina Carpenter, R.N., of Forrest General will lecture on "Traumatic Brain Injury." Carpenter, a clinical nurse from Forrest General Hospital and a specialist for the Neuro Center of Excellence, will lecture on the frame model of the spinal cord.

"This community outreach is all about education and prevention," said Smalley, who is the trauma registrar at Forrest General and guides the Dare-to-Care program on drinking and driving. "It only takes a second (to incur an injury) that you have to live with forever. So, participating in this event is the right thing to do. The only way to prevent brain injury is to make sure it never happens (in the first place)."

Representatives from Pine Grove Recovery Center, a leader in addiction medicine, will give lectures on chemical dependency. Thomas Tullos, therapy manager at Pine Grove, will speak on "Where Addiction Can Take You."

Other lectures and presentations include Roy Stringer, a physical therapist at Hattiesburg Clinic, who will speak on "Protecting your Head while Playing Sports." Clement of Hattiesburg Clinic, fellowship trained in primary care sports medicine, will speak on "Football...the Force of Impact."

David Freeman, ATC, of Hattiesburg Clinic will give a talk on "Protective Headgear." Dr. Ellen Ovson of Forrest General will lecture on "Drugs: What's the Harm?" Bevard, fellowship trained in nonoperative spine care and sports medicine, is a certified athletic trainer who will speak on Case Assessment: Collision and Head Trauma in Sports."

Dr. Raymond Whitehead, a Hattiesburg Clinic orthopedic surgeon fellowship trained in sports medicine and arthroscopy, will present "Using Your Head: Repetitive Head Trauma in Soccer."

On Saturday, Kimberly C. Ryder, a physical therapist at Hattiesburg Clinic who is also a certified athletic trainer and a certified Pilates instructor, will explain "Pilates - How it Helps Prevent Injuries." Clint Hudson, a physical therapist at Hattiesburg Clinic, is certified for Isernhagen Functional Capacity Evaluations, work hardening-conditioning, and job-site analysis system. He will talk about "The Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls."

This small sampling of what the health fair will include relates how a healthy brain is a subject for young and old alike. Protecting the brain, understanding its functions, and being knowledgeable about potential problems are important to every community member.

"As we age, it becomes increasingly important to protect the brain and keep it functioning as well as it can for as long it can," said Schwartz, of Hattiesburg Clinic. "There are treatments available to help the brain function better and perhaps even protect it from degrading further down the road. Stay aware of your memory and other brain functions so that you can treat problems as soon as they occur.

"Early treatment leads to enhanced function for years down the road."


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM