Service proud

Health Services in colleges and universities have taken a lot of bashing over the years. I feel it is important that certain facts should be made known to the student population so they can properly evaluate the services at their student Health Service.

At the NIU Health Service we are proud of our physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and the support staff for the expertise and commitment to quality health care that they bring to our organization. We have many resources at the health service that have been untapped and I urge students to become involved and learn about us before they pass judgment on us.

The field of college health has become a medical sub-specialty for physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The medical personnel working in college health institutions are, in fact, the experts in conditions which most frequently affect this age group. Conditions include the more routine general medical problems such as injuries, ear infections, bronchitis, sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol/drug abuse, depression and eating disorders, just to name a few.

In addition, college health physicians diagnose and treat or provide appropriate monitoring for serious individual cases who have chronic conditions such as leukemia, tumors, or serious kidney and liver problems. Serious infections like tuberculosis, measles and AIDS are seen and diagnosed by college health physicians, thus making life safer for all of the university community. In fact, many discoveries for treatments pertinent to young adults have occurred because the physicians providing student health care recognized the increase in certain symptoms, which focused research leading to the discovery of treatments to halt the progression of the disease. For example, the association between genital warts and cervical cancer in women or the rise of measles among college age individuals.

The nursing field has also recognized the importance of college health and within the past year, administered the first national examination for College Health Nurse Certification.

Universities, as part of their students’ learning experiences, need to provide health service contacts. At the university health service, in addition to providing health care, staff provide education to the students on proper access and use of health care services. Staff members try to help students address the limitations and realities versus the expectations not only of student health, but health care organizations in general. Only after students have acquired knowledge of realistic expectations for health care and have experienced different health care organizations will they be ready to pass judgment on the quality of the health care services they received.

Modern medicine has some wonderful tools available, which when used properly will allow physicians to confirm definitive diagnoses which could only be clinically presumed in the past. However, some conditions are self-limiting and do not respond to any medical intervention and must simply be allowed to run their natural course. For others, the symptoms may mimic several conditions and time must lapse before testing will support a definitive diagnosis.

Besides the above identified facts, I would like to mention that there are 38 million uninsured people, the majority in the 18 to 25 age bracket. Students between the ages of 18 to 25 lose contact with their private physicians because they often leave their home community. Without access to a college health service, many would find themselves unable to obtain appropriate medical care due to being underinsured and/or without any insurance. By having student health services available, they have access to the physicians and other health care providers with the most expertise in treating the conditions most frequently found in this age group.

Sara Susmano, M.D.

Chief of Medical Staff

Health services