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Dr. Flick: One Health Mistake You Might be Making

Dr. Flick, assistant teaching professor of biology and director of HealthPAC (Health Professions Advising Center), is not just a great teacher at North Carolina State University but she’s also had a huge impact on women’s (and men’s) health. 

Dr. Flick started out by doing her undergrad at North Carolina State University, where she was a cheerleader and Ms. Wuf, receiving a degree in Zoology. Next, she got her medical degree from UNC School of Medicine, but don’t worry her blood runs red! Later she did her Ph.D work in Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest University. These things are impressive, but even more so is her involvement in the research and development of GARDASIL, a vaccine for HPV (Human Papillomavirus). While working for Family Health International, Flick, in the early 1990’s started trials to develop a vaccine that would prevent against HPV. All the time and research definitely paid off, GARDASIL became the best option for protection from cervical cancer, and HPV. 

Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, in Dr. Flick’s words “is a viral infection that is spread by direct skin to skin sexual contact through vaginal, anal and oral sex with a partner who already has HPV – this includes genital-to-genital contact.” 

Not just knowing about HPV is important but also getting your annual pap tests and HPV screen is also imperative. Because most women who are diagnosed with HPV have no outward signs, the results of an abnormal pap test are what indicate that the virus is present. Dr. Flick believes that every woman should be getting annual pap smears after the age of eighteen. More importantly “women should have their first pap test with in three years of their first sexual intercourse, or by age 21, which ever comes first.” Another important piece of advice when getting your pap test’s done, “if they are concerned that they may have been exposed to HPV, that they make their physician aware of this so that the physician requests the HPV screen on the pap test as it is not routinely done.”

Dr. Flicks 10 most important things to know about HPV and the Gardasil Vaccine:
1. HPV is one of the most common STD’s with more new cases each year than any other STD.
2. Approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV and over 6 million Americans get a new genital HPV infection each year.
3. Approximately 4,000 women die from cervical cancer each year.
4. It is estimated 75% to 80% of males and females will be infected with HPV in their lifetime.
5. Like other viruses often the virus will clear on its own, but when it doesn’t, HPV can cause serious health problems including cancer.
6. There are often no signs or symptoms – or they may take weeks, months, even years to appear- which means most people are unaware that they have HPV.
7. Ways to protect yourself from getting HPV, abstinence, GARDASIL, and condoms (in order of most effective). But you need to remember that condoms are not completely effective because the virus can be present on areas of the skin not covered by the condom.
8. Symptoms of HPV are: warts, precancerous changes in the cervix, vulva, anus, and penis. As well as cervical cancer.
9. GARDASIL protects against HPV types 16 & 18, which are responsible for about 70% of all cervical cancers, and most vaginal cancers. It also protects against HPV types 6 & 11, which cause about 90% of genital warts.
10. GARDASIL is most commonly recommended for women between 9 and 26 to get the vaccine. The vaccine is given as 3 injections over 6 months, and may have certain side effects such as pain, swelling, itching, bruising, and redness at injection site. Also side effects like headaches, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and fainting might occur.

Being a college student definitely brings new experiences, don’t you want those experiences to all be good ones? By being informed about HPV and other STD’s, your experiences won’t be of treating your genital warts, or maybe even dealing with cervical cancer, but they will be of having a great time. Get the GARDASIL vaccine because the way Dr. Flick puts it, “it is not an anti-STD vaccine, it is a anti-cancer vaccine.”
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