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Desert Health Webinar


Last updated 1/28/2022 at 11:56am

In the first of a three-part series on Desert Health, the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association (ABDHNA) sponsored a webinar in connection with Borrego Health, Mercy Air and the Borrego Springs Fire Department on Jan. 13, hosted by Mike McElhatton.

The focus for the webinar on Jan. 13, said McElhatton, was on presentations by four doctors in our desert community, each an expert in his/her field.

First up was Dr. Michelle Thomas, Family Medicine Resident at Riverside Community Hospital, speaking on the subject of desert allergies.

Dr. Thomas laid out the main sources of allergies in our extended desert community: pollen, mold, animal dander, latex, certain foods, and insect stings. Reactions to those sources range from mild to life-threatening, depending on one’s immune response system. When a person’s body first encounters the allergen, the body produces allergic antibodies, which in turn help to rid the allergens from one’s system. However, in the process, a chemical called histamine is also released, producing the symptoms of allergies.

Allergy remedies are widely available and come in a wide variety of medicinal forms, including Benadryl, Claritin, Afrin, Flonase, Zyrtec, and others. For those with allergies from mild to severe, she highly recommends visiting an online resource, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology where a great deal of important information can be found for your specific allergy.

Next to speak was Dr. Sharereh Gandy, a licensed clinical psychologist with Borrego Health, on the subject of mental health and well-being.

Our mental health is dictated by two basic factors – biological and environmental. Our physical state of being relies on our individual genetic make-up, hormones, and brain chemistry, and the environmental factor is influenced by life experiences, stress, and even trauma.

Signs of mental health problems, says Dr. Gandy, can be obvious or subtle, but included avoidance behavior, sleep or appetite issues, and irritability. Of course, the most extreme, suicidal or homicidal tendencies, can be triggered by any or all of the behaviors at deeper levels. She highly recommends that people with personal issues about themselves or those around them contact health professionals for confidential support. One is an immediate support hotline: 1-800-273-8255; and the other is CalHope at 1-833-317-HOPE.

The third presentation was by Dr. Laura Goetz, a preventative medicine MD with the Borrego Springs Clinic, and she spoke on the subject of prevention.

Dr. Goetz laid out the three groups responsible for maintaining health and preventing disease: Individuals, Primary Care Providers, and Communities. She presented a behavioral cause-effect situation as the 3-4-50% analogy. That is, three behaviors (tobacco use, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle) contribute to four conditions (cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, and diabetes) that all together cause 50% of all deaths. She stressed quitting smoking, having a healthy diet, and using regular exercise to ward off negative physical impacts.

While many of Dr. Goetz’s remedies were ones relying on common sense, there was an analogy of hers worthy of note when it comes to the timing of patient care: “If people are constantly falling off a cliff, you can place ambulances under the cliff, or build a fence on the top of the cliff. We are placing all too many ambulances under the cliff” ~Denis Burkitt

The final presenter was Dr. Silas Gyimah, MD, on the subject of skin cancer, a topic of concern to all desert-dwellers. He spoke of the differences between squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanomas of all kinds. The photos were indeed graphic and even unpleasant to look at, so we’ll leave you not with photos but with this message: If you see on yourself or anyone close to you lesions, sores, or wounds that won’t heal, put this newspaper down and call a doctor! It’s that serious an issue, folks.

Part two of the Desert Living – Desert Health Webinar series is titled, “Healthcare in A Remote and Rural Community,” and will be on Thursday Jan. 20, 6:30 p.m.

Borrego Springs is a remote and rural community with a 90 minute drive to some of the most advanced medical treatment in America. This is an information-sharing presentation about the healthcare services available in Borrego Springs, from primary care, health screenings, and health maintenance, all the way up to emergency medical transportation. The panelists are healthcare professionals with direct patient contact from the Borrego Springs Medical Clinic, the Borrego Springs Fire Department, and Mercy Air.

Part three covers “Helicopter & Ambulance Open House” as folks are able to talk with those in the emergency medical transportation department.

These next two series’ will be covered by the Borrego Sun. Stay tuned.

To register, go to Desert Living is an on-going series of the 501(c)3 non-profit Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association.