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This Week at CCSU

Health Services Staff See Spike in Use

It may seem like a small embarrassment, but CCSU students hated carrying a urine sample down the hallway from the restroom to the exam room in the Health Services suite in Marcus White.

So the staff installed a mini access window, where the students could deposit a sample in complete privacy.

For Dr. Christopher Diamond, medical director of CCSU Health Services, providing quality care means taking care of the details—big and small—that make the student health center a warm, welcoming, and convenient place for students to seek medical attention.

During the 2011–2012 academic year, the Health Services staff treated some 5,000 patients, up from 2,800 four years ago. By adding more staff, an extra exam room, and remaining open through lunchtime, the center has been able to care for more students.

Diamond said he imagines it must be a little frightening for many freshmen to seek medical care for the first time, without a parent by their side.

“Most incoming students have never gone to a medical appointment on their own, or had to take charge of their health,” Diamond said. “That can be intimidating. We try to make it as easy as possible.”

“We consider ourselves the bridge to a student’s primary care doctor at home,” Diamond said. “Since 93 percent of our students live in Connecticut, we take care of them until they can see their regular doctor. Our goal is to treat what we can, so they don’t miss class and can stay in school.”

According to Diamond, students’ most common illnesses include upper respiratory infections, injuries, stomach viruses, and rashes. Health Services provides immunizations, screenings for hearing loss and sexually transmitted diseases, blood tests, and more. The staff performs pre-participation testing for varsity athletes, as well as pre-concussion testing. They offer coronary function testing, and an allergy shot clinic. The staff also offers flu vaccines in the dormitories and this year co-sponsored campus programs on nutrition and sexual health.

New this academic year, students will be able to make medical appointments online. The center has also purchased new hearing-testing equipment and hopes to have students discover any hearing loss before it becomes severe. Additionally, all medical records are now online, making it easier for seniors to have their recordsforwarded to graduate schools.

The medical staff is also responsible for ensuring the University is in compliance with state health laws—which requires reviewing some 3,000 health forms a year.

Diamond, who has worked at CCSU for three years and is a board-certified physician, said he cautions medical and nursing students not to assume that someone who is young is necessarily healthy.

“A lot of chronic medical conditions begin to emerge in the late teens or early 20s,” he said. “That’s when we’ll see irritable bowel disease, appendicitis, pelvic-inflammatory disease, as well as unplanned pregnancies. When we examine a patient, we have to think about the worst thing that could be going on.”

“We’ve had great catches here,” Diamond said. “Marisol Aponte diagnosed a student with a life-threatening problem—a collapsed lung.”

Diamond said he is hoping to form a student- advisory council, that will offer suggestions for programs or services. “We are trying to make it a student-centered office and adapt to their needs,” he said.

The Health Services staff includes APRN and associate director Aponte, registered nurse Eileen Kenny, nurse practitioner April Palombizio, secretary Diane Cannata, and office assistant Alisa St. Georges.

Patient confidentiality is guaranteed, with the staff refusing to even tell a parent that their child has been treated without the student’s permission.

Diamond and Aponte both said one of their favorite aspects of the job is the team-approach to student health and well-being, which exists from the administration, counseling services, residence life, and student government. That was especially helpful during Diamond’s first year here, when the H1N1 virus hit.

“Across campus so many departments came together to meet all aspects of preparation,” he said. “That’s one reason the flu didn’t take a big toll, because we were well prepared. We had to immunize over 1,000 people. The faculty was very understanding if a student missed class. We had hand sanitizer dispensers installed all over campus. We did a great job containing the illness.”

Cannata, known as the ‘Mom of the Campus,’ and the real mother of three, is usually the first person the student speaks with.

“A lot of freshmen call and they’re not sure if they need to be seen,” she said. “We’ll say, ‘C’mon in. We’ll take a look at you.’ Our students are so great. No matter how bad they’refeeling, they are always pleasant.”

Aponte is there to treat illnesses, but she said she frequently sees students who are suffering from stress and time-management issues.

“It is not all about illness; sometimes a student just needs some assurance that everything is going to be OK,” she said. “They want thattherapeutic touch. They need to hear that ‘It isonly a cold. You’ll be fine. You’ll succeed.’ Theywant a little positive energy.”

Perhaps the most unusual Health Services patient was small and rather furry. A student had found a stray baby bunny near Davidson Hall, and decided the best thing to do was to bring it to the staff. Diamond called his wife and children and they transported it to a wildlife rehab center.

“We think that was successful, because when it comes to good care, students know to turn to us,” Diamond said.