O-Issue 2011: Student health

Even the improvements to the health plan can’t cure That Kids.

By Christina Pillsbury

Before enrolling at the U of C, you have to provide immunization records. Before classes start, you have to prove your physical fitness (or lack thereof). And before you can call yourself a real U of C student, you have to pay a large student health and wellness fee – all of this so that before you ask for an extension on that hellish paper, you can prove that you’re sick.

But what are you really paying for when you fork over that quarterly fee? It’s not just for a doctors who will provide birth control pills and extra-strength cough medicine—the Primary Care Service (PCS) and Student Counseling Service (SCS) offer more resources than most students know.

To help relieve some of your anxiety associated with your inability to leave the Reg, many of the resources at the PCS, hidden deep inside the Wyler Pavillion across from DCAM in the Medical Center, are geared towards stress relief. Besides your basic clinic services—STD testing, pap smears, routine checkups, and some free lab services—the PCS offers a sports medicine doctor, a massage therapist, a stress-management movement therapist, a nutritionist, and eating disorder specialists. There’s also smoking-cessation information and treatment, but that may or may not reduce stress.

The SCS, located next to the Chicago Theological Seminary (home of the Seminary Co-Op), is your gateway into the world of mental clarity. Services include short term individual and couples psychotherapy, medication management, emergency intervention, and a variety of support groups. Generally SCS staff provide referrals if a student needs more long-term support. The service also hosts wellness events, offering relief from day to day life in the form of art projects, massages, and healthy snacks.

Access to the PCS and SCS has come under scrutiny in the past few years: in a 2009 survey conducted by SG showed that about half of the student respondents were unhappy with the timeliness of appointments. There were also concerns regarding appointments that were cancelled or rescheduled without notice.

Interim Assistant Vice President for Student Health and Counseling Alex Lickerman (M.D. ’92) addressed these complaints in a February forum hosted by SG. He announced four goals for improving student health services on campus: offering the best quality of care to students—which he said is available currently—improve customer service to make students feel welcome, implement a more timely way to schedule appointments, and create a health promotion and wellness system. At the same forum, Lickerman acknowledged that the spatial division between the SCS and the PCS is problematic, but realistically bringing the two centers closer (and the PCS to campus) could take two years. Lucky for you, member of the class of 2015, you may be witness to a new building, meaning you might actually be able to find the PCS instead of wandering around aimlessly in the massive hospital complex. Lickerman said it best: “Those of you who have been to Student Care know that it’s basically a dungeon.”

To make an appointment at the PCS—if you can get one, that is—the phone number is (773) 702-4156. The front desk of the SCS can be reached at (773) 702-9800.