Health center needs substantial upgrades

by Beacon Staff • February 27, 2008

Student disappointment about the underperforming Center for Health and Wellness

Our view:

The center should improve services and accessability,Let's face it: college kids aren't the healthiest bunch out there. We reject the concept of a stable sleep cycle, eat lots of junk food, "enjoy" the weekends a bit too much and generally thrive on that which our parents tell us to avoid. And the raw, precipitation-prone Boston climate does us no favors.

During the majority of the school year, Emersonians are cooped up in tiny rooms, swapping germs through shared drinks, shared spaces and shared beds. When we do venture into the clean, cold air, it's often to breeze through the Common for a bit, or maybe dash to a nearby bar, cafeacute; or T stop. It's not strange for a student's greatest adventure to be a smoke-wreathed stroll from Piano Row to the Walker Building and back again.

Considering these negative pressures, it's no surprise that we Lions sometimes appear a bedraggled group, suffering from various ailments and illnesses. What is surprising, however, is the unsatisfactory state of the Center for Health and Wellness, which serves as the only real recourse for under-the-weather Emersonians.

By almost any measure, our health services are inferior to those of neighboring academic institutions. In terms of size, staff, services, access and availability, Emerson's medical capabilities all need improvement.

Frequently, students complain about the center's hours, including its inconveniently timed midday, 12 p.m. - 1 p.m., shutdown and early-evening closings. Lions also seem dismayed by the fact that it doesn't open on the weekends. In contrast, clinics at Harvard, Boston University and Suffolk all have longer hours, with the first two offering weekend services.

Then there's the matter of walk-in service, our lack of which consistently perplexes and distresses students. Often, a student will be afflicted with a problem that is serious but not extraordinary or life threatening. If the health center is open, he can take a gamble and hope the injury or malady is deemed severe enough to warrant a walk-in visit, which are extremely difficult given the chronically congested appointment schedule.

However, if the clinic is closed, then there're few options besides summoning an ambulance and heading to the hospital, which can mean costly fees and a load of inconvenience.

It would be ideal for Emerson to establish an after-hour care unit, in the mold of that which exists at Harvard. That university's clinic operates 24/7 "to provide advice and treatment of urgent health problems (physical or emotional) including sudden, serious and unexpected illnesses, injuries or conditions which require immediate attention." At very least, there could be some on-campus healthcare facility for the weekends, even if its hours were fairly restricted.

Maybe it's unfair to compare Emerson with larger, better-endowed institutions, but what's obvious is that our wellness center could use an upgrade. Few students who've come in contact with it walk away suggestion free. A more robust staff, a more accommodating appointment schedule, longer operational hours, an after-hours care unit-even one of these would be a step in the right direction.