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Tobacco expert to speak to medical providers today

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Getting people to quit using tobacco comes down to education — for both patients and their medical providers.

Going forward, that is what the Tobacco Cessation Center of Northern New York at Carthage Area Hospital wants both groups to understand. To that end, tobacco expert Dr. Geoffrey C. Williams is coming to town for a dinner presentation today at 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1290 Arsenal St.

Dr. Williams, professor of medicine at the University of Rochester, will talk about how he’d like primary care clinicians to better identify tobacco users, in an effort to decrease health risks.

“If you have a patient that already has emphysema and continues to smoke, that’s a problem,” he said. “They’re more at risk for infections.”

People who smoke cigarettes or use chewing tobacco or other tobacco products, he said, may disrupt their body’s normal ability to clear bugs out of its system.

“Tars suppress the immune system,” Dr. Williams said. “We want to teach our physicians and medical offices to be recommending immunizations. All those risks are going down if they quit smoking.”

C. Beth Gero, coordinator of the Tobacco Cessation Center of Northern New York at Carthage Area Hospital, which is hosting the presentation, said a few dozen medical providers are expected to attend the dinner today. She said continuing education workshops, such as the presentation by Dr. Williams, are necessary to give local medical professionals the most up-to-date information. That is needed, she said, because here in Jefferson County “we have one of the higher prevalences of smoking.”

“Tobacco use is increasing because people are going from smoking to chew” tobacco, she said.

Dr. Williams’s presentation will help identify strategies to motivate patients to stop smoking, demonstrate how to interview a patient who uses tobacco and has a chronic disease, and review suggestions for a team approach to help patients stop smoking.

“We never know what’s going to motivate a smoker to quit,” he said.

But providing smokers with all the necessary tools to quit also gives them the ability to control their situation. Mrs. Gero said she never tells someone to quit using tobacco, as it is up to each person to decide when the time is right.

Mrs. Gero said Dr. Williams was chosen as guest speaker because he “is an expert in his field.” He also is director of the University of Rochester Healthy Living Center, is certified with the American Board of Internal Medicine and the ASP board, is a specialist in clinical hypertension and is on the American Board of Clinical Lipidology.

The presentation is a collaboration with the North Country Healthy Heart Network, which offered a similar presentation Tuesday. Continuing education credits are offered for medical providers who attend tonight’s event.

Mrs. Gero, who is based out of Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam, said the free dinner presentation is an annual event for the Tobacco Cessation Center, which also provides training workshops and shares information with medical providers to pass on to patients.

The center at Carthage Area Hospital is funded through a Bureau of Tobacco Control grant the hospital received five years ago. The current funding cycle ends June 30, and in order to sustain the center here, Carthage Area Hospital would have to reapply.

Mrs. Gero said the center, one of 19 in the state, is affiliated with the NY Smokers Quit Line.

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