The University of San Diego is cognizant of the health and well-being of its students, but the opening of its relocated Student Health Center is an unprecedented testament, physically and visibly, to this philosophy.
The center recently moved into a reconfigured, two-story space in Maher Hall, Room 140, next to Aromas. Its size alone, nearly 8,000 square feet, is three times larger than its previous residence in Camino Hall and that’s very good news for the campus community.
“Going into a new space is exciting, but the real excitement is that it’s a very functional space that will help us meet the needs that our students have,” said Pamela Sikes, director of the Student Health Center. “We’re a full-service, primary care health center, but this new space, I think, validates the high-quality work that we do.”
The center’s move to a bigger space, to be formally celebrated with an open house event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, answers what had become a logistical problem in its previous location. While the center’s health care services to students were not limited, the steady increase in the number of patients routinely visiting hampered its effectiveness.
“We think our students will be pleasantly surprised that they can continue to get the wonderful care they’re accustomed to, while at the same time, this space allows us to provide more services,” said Moises Baron, assistant vice president of Student Affairs and Student Wellness.
Buoyed by a student-approved student health services fee that increased this year for the first time since 2006 from $47 to $70 per semester — and still one of the lowest fees among comparable Southern California higher education institutions — the center now occupies a renovated space, formerly used by USD Catering, where it can provide quality care.
The new space doubles the number of patient exam rooms. It features an updated laboratory and triage rooms, a larger dispensary, computer kiosks for self check-ins, a larger waiting room and employee workspaces all on the main floor. The lower level has ample room for storage, administration offices and staff meeting spaces.
The center, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (open until 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays) and has an after-hours, “on-call” provider, offers fully accredited outpatient medical care for acute illnesses, minor injuries, preventive care and medical problems. Sikes said the on-site lab can produce test results in minutes, the dispensary allows credible medical staff to prescribe many common medications, and services such as immunizations, health screenings, allergy injections, a travel medicine clinic, and to administer pre-participation physicals for students in USD Campus Recreation activities.
“It becomes a one-stop center for many students,” she said.
“We see the future of appropriate care much more integrated, bringing the physical, mental health and emotional needs together,” Baron said.
He said the center will have an on-site psychiatrist. There’s also a pilot screening program in the works to help examine issues of depression, suicide risk, alcohol abuse, drug and tobacco use that affect a student’s overall wellness and academic performance.
“We’re excited because this integration provides our students with more holistic care, which is an approach that’s very unique,” he said.
The USD Student Health Center’s mission is to serve its students’ healthcare needs. Last year in the old space, Sikes said, student visits were up 10 percent and peak times could bring in as many as 50 and 100 patients on a daily basis.
Having the new, more centrally accessible campus location and more space is re-energizing to Sikes, her fellow practitioners and the entire 18-person staff, as they prepare for what will likely be busy times ahead.
“I’m going with the build-it-and-they-will-come theory,” Sikes said. “We’ll experience it, but we’re ready and we’re looking forward to it.”
— Ryan T. Blystone