WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - This year has held many firsts for Cedron Emerson, a barber of 18 years.
Emerson fulfilled a life dream of opening his own barbershop, Just Cut It, in October. The next month, he also received his first flu vaccination inside the same barbershop.
That flu shot was thanks to a new community partnership between New Hanover Regional Medical Center and the local barbershop, called Getting Healthy at The Barber where healthcare providers set up a clinic inside the shop to bring medical care directly to people.
Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have cared for more than 100 patients at four Saturday clinics since the program's launch in November. Free services they provide include flu vaccinations, pneumonia vaccinations, blood pressure screenings, and answering any health-related questions.
"The barbershop has always been such a social staple in our community," said Jermaine Armour, a barbershop client who received medical care from the program. "It's where you can come for fellowship and see friends."
It's the sense of community that keeps clients returning to barbershop chairs, but those ties of kinship are also the reason that hospital laboratory director, Kevin Briggs, created this new program with the medical center.
"We wanted to go to unconventional areas to provide health care services before people end up in the hospital," Briggs said about the preventative focus of the program. "The barbers already have a relationship with the community, so we really partner closely with the barbers."
A pharmacist at the barbershop health clinic, Joshua Jones, said he has noticed the environment of the shop makes patients more likely to open up and share health concerns.
"It's refreshing to get outside those hospital walls," Jones said. "I think it is also for the patients as well. This is more in their home environment, so they are more relaxed."
Program organizers said they plan to expand the program to more barbershops in Wilmington.