Miami students know the drill. It’s Friday night and you weren’t feeling so great during your classes all day. Nine o’clock rolls around and while your friends are figuring out plans for the night, your plan is to sit in bed watching the I Love New York marathon and eating soup.
When you wake up Saturday morning, you feel even worse than you would have if you had actually gone out. Your head hurts, your throat hurts, and you can’t decide if your room is too hot or too cold. Normally you would wait it out, but that investigative report on rare deadly diseases you caught last night has questions flying around in your head. Maybe your cell-phone addiction and diet-soda habit is finally wreaking havoc on your brain and body.
You manage to get out of bed, throw on a sweatshirt and flip flops, and schlep through the pouring rain to a building hidden off of Stanford Drive. You reach the door and tears come to your eyes as you see that the Health Center is closed on weekends (and holidays).
During a normal school week, the Health Center is open from 8:30 AM until 5 PM with the last patient checking in at 4:45 PM, resulting in one of Miami students’ major complaints regarding the Health Center; other college and university health centers have at least limited weekend hours, and many are open at least either Saturday or Sunday. According to Student Health Service Director Dr. Howard Anapol, there has been discussion of extending health center hours. In the past, the Health Center has extended hours later into the day, but it was found that students did not take advantage of the change.
The University of Miami Health Center prides itself on “convenient, accessible, quality care.” But does it truly live up to this claim?
Dr. Anapol reminds us that the Health Center is “centrally located on campus, and closely affiliated with our medical school, so you see real doctors at our Health Center.” However, while it is true that the Health Center has a central location, it is only somewhat identifiable. One freshman’s confused response when questioned about the Health Center put it best: “Do you mean, like, the doctor or the gym?”
But she may not be the only one who doesn’t know, because unless you have had a need for it, the Student Health Center is easily overlooked, and with hours previously mentioned, it may not be there for you when you need it.
“I have never been to the Health Center, to be completely honest,” said junior, Andrew Willert. “I either stock up on Nyquil and tough it out, or call my parents since they are both physicians.” Which leads to the question, are we better of with a self, or remotely-located parental diagnosis over the advice of the physicians at the Health Center? If timeliness is of the essence, then perhaps you might be.
The general routine when arriving at the health center begins with signing in with your ‘Cane Card, then waiting 15-20 minutes before you are called to have your vitals, like weight, temperature, and blood pressure taken. You are then sent back to the waiting room for another 10-15 minutes of perusing outdated magazines before you are assigned a room, where you are likely to wait at least 5-10 more minutes (anyone else notice a pattern here?) before a physician arrives and immediately orders a non-complimentary pregnancy test (gender permitting). Because, as much as your sex life tells you otherwise, your doctor has already pin-pointed the reason behind your elevated temperature and stomach cramps, as far too many students can attest. Students have noticed that sexual health seems to be a point of focus for a lot of Health Center staff.
“Whenever I go to the Health Center they seem to care more about my birth control than what’s actually wrong with me,” one student complained. According to Dr. Anapol, the Health Center does perform “a fair amount” of STD testing and contraceptive counseling (code for pregnancy testing).
While UM may not be a disease-ridden campus teeming with unprotected sex, sexual health is still a big area of concern. And, although it is tempting to laugh from the Health Center waiting room as you witness an optimistic freshman stuffing his backpack with free condoms from the front desk, at least he’s being safe.
Not only can the health center be inconvenient, sometimes it’s just plain wrong. Aside from the pregnancy assumptions, other quick but often inaccurate diagnoses include “just a cold” and Mononucleosis.
“The health center told me I had mono when I didn’t. That was pretty bad,” said sophomore Angela Murfin, “I ended up at the hospital with a severe tonsil infection the next day.”
Of course, the convenient CVS across US-1 provides a choice: diagnose yourself and buy out a shelf of pain killers and Emergen-C, or sit in a waiting room full of your contagious peers and pray you leave with the latest cure-all. Either way, you still might end up in the hospital, because, well, you’re not a doctor, and, no, watching House does not count as medical school.
Dr. Anapol did acknowledge is that, “the Health Center could improve upon educating students about insurance.” While it is not imperative that you use your personal health insurance to cover your care at the Health Center, if you are really nervous, the pregnancy tests you can buy at CVS won’t show up on your parents’ insurance bill. However, when it comes to birth control or other medications, a patient must first obtain a prescription from a physician, which can then be filled at the pharmacy, just a staircase away from the main Health Center facility. So if your symptoms allow, waiting the 20-30 minutes to see a physician at the Health Center beats any hospital’s emergency waiting room by at least an hour, the accompanying bills, and the inconvenience of going elsewhere to get your prescriptions filled.
And as for the wait time, Dr. Anapol also noted that he would like to see an increase in the percentage of appointments made, as opposed to walk-in visits so as to manage waiting time. But as for the most pertinent of suggestions, freshman Marissa Zerbo thinks, “the Health Center could get some hot doctors.” Oh, Grey’s Anatomy, what have you done?
So maybe your ailments will have to limit themselves to weekdays, but your sexual health will be in top condition , and after all, free, colorful condoms are hard to come by.<<