Policy changes in Student Health affect transgender care, STI testing

The updates and addition of new personnel and services were enacted over the past two years

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Changes to Student Health include additional staff and reduced cost of STI testing.

Navya Annapareddy | Cavalier Daily

Numerous changes in healthcare policy have been enacted at the University’s Student Health Center over the past two years, including in the areas of transgender patient care, head injuries and concussions, travel medicine and care for sexually transmitted infections. Additionally, new physicians, nurse practitioners and a Care Manager have been appointed.

Located off Brandon Avenue, the Elson Student Health Center offers medical care — ranging from psychological counseling to allergy injections — at no or reduced cost to students. Student health also includes an on-site pharmacy and laboratory.

Dr. Jessica Simmons, associate director of General Medicine at the Elson Student Health Center, affirmed that numerous policy changes were made.

Online appointment scheduling was initiated in August 2016, and since then about 35 percent of students have scheduled general medicine appointments via the online HealthyHoos portal. The portal also allows students and guardians to fill out necessary medical forms.

“Most students who schedule online keep their appointments, which points to the flexibility that this gives students who are trying to schedule appointments in the midst of busy days with many moving parts,” Simmons said.

The transgender health care team is composed of staff from numerous specialties, including psychological services and care managers to address insurance or financial concerns.

Prior to August 2016, Student Health had medical providers individually seeing patients but had not had staff trainings on providing a transgender-friendly clinic or formed a specialized care team.

“In June 2017, we formed a [transgender care] team and in August 2017 started initiating hormone therapies,” Simmons said. “We have given several talks to the LGBTQ Center and are giving a talk to [peer health educators] next week.”

Elke Zschaebitz and Nancy Lutz, general medicine nurse practitioners at Elson, won the V. Shamim Sisson Ally Award in November 2016 for expanding transgender healthcare services at Student Health.

Simmons noted that as the number of patients with head injuries or concussions increase, including approximately 550 patients since last August, emphasis has been placed to provide the most current, evidence-based care.

“Dr. [Beth] Robinson and I developed protocols for how to care for students with head injuries, including standardized histories, screening tools, and physical exam techniques,” Simmons said.

Additionally, in September 2016, the travel medicine clinic at Elson phased out group-based travel clinic appointments. Now, individual appointments are scheduled following completion of an online travel educational module.

The director of the Travel Medicine Clinic, Dr. Anjali Silva, noted that the previous method was inflexible and time consuming.

“Before, we used to give a group presentation to a maximum of eight students at a time, and then did their individual travel appointment,” Silva said. “I think students prefer having the convenience of taking the module on their own time and having more flexibility with their appointments.”

Simmons stated that testing for sexually-transmitted infections is now offered at a reduced cost, and new tests have been made available to students.

Gonorrhea testing was previously $218.00 and now is $18.00. Testing for Syphilis is $17.00 but was previously $143.00 while Chlamydia was previously $218.00 and is now $18.00.

First-year College student Priya Talwar praised the price decrease.

“STI testing being reduced in cost allows students of different socioeconomic statuses to take advantage of the services at Student Health,” Talwar said. “It’s not free but it is a lot more accessible.”

Additionally, numerous staff physicians and nurse practitioners, many of them alumni, were added to the Student Health staff. Dr. Simmons herself is a former Jefferson Scholar at the University.

Registered Nurse Melissa Surguine-Smith was appointed as the General Medicine care manager in November 2017.

“She will help coordinate care and resources for students with chronic or complicated medical conditions, also any public health concerns,” Simmons said. “Students should definitely reach out to her.”

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