“Have you had any caffeine today so far?” Pulliam asked before he started the test. Kent told him no, he’d not had anything to drink yet this morning, and the test proceeded.
Kent — like many of the 449 other registered patients — has been to this event before. But not because he or any of his fellow men or women were particularly worried about their health.
Kent said he considers spending a Saturday morning at the health department like a yearly checkup instead.
“It’s free, you know?” Kent said. “And I feel like I needed the test.”
The 11th annual Health Initiative for Men, sponsored and organized by 100 Black Men of Rome and Northwest Georgia, gives people like Kent the opportunity to get health screenings, tests and health care education without having to pay for these same services in a doctor’s office.
Organizer Larry Morrow said that without the annual event, he might have lost his life to prostate cancer. But with surgery in January and follow-up radiation treatment, he said he’s added years to his life.
“Each of the prior years that we’ve done this there has been someone that needs to respond and follow up to test results,” Morrow said. “So maybe we’re not saving lives, but we’re improving them.”
The numbers of those who are getting the exams has gone up in the 11 years since the event began. In 2001, only 32 men participated in prostate exams, but 10 years later 364 men were tested. This year alone, 290 men were screened.
“Throughout the year the 100 Black Men, not just here in Rome but around the nation, health and wellness is a primary focus,” said 100 Black Men of Rome President Curtis Adams. “But we’re not just focusing on prostate cancer. We’re looking at other areas that affect the community, like colorectal cancer, diabetes and (multiple sclerosis).”
But the day wasn’t just about making sure men in Rome are taking care of themselves. It was also about honoring one man who had always been a strong supporter of 100 Black Men of Rome and the Health Initiative for Men.
Wesley Johnson, who died in May at the age of 85, had battled prostate cancer 17 years ago. Because of his advocacy in the fight against prostate cancer and for men’s health, 100 Black Men decided to honor him in a ceremony at the beginning of the event.
“Wesley was a friend of the 100 Black Men and had been one of our mentors,” Morrow said.
“And he made himself available to tell people that prostate cancer could be cured with early detection.”