"The good news is Colgate students are very bright so
it's a delight to take care of them. They understand what it takes to get
better," says Dr. Merrill Miller, who has been expediting the healing process
for 15 years as the physician director of the Student Health Service.
"Our mission is to help students get back to their active academic and extracurricular lives.
"When students are ill they don't always remember the intelligent things parents and grandparents taught them, so we're here to remind them of the importance of sleeping, eating right and giving up habits that aren't helpful."
Merrill Miller and her staff of two physician assistants, four nurses and an office manager see to it that Colgate students are cared for, body and soul. They listen as much as they probe and poke, and are available to talk about a student's concerns, either personal or for a family member.
The health center is open to students for all types of health care and to faculty and staff for monitoring some health problems -- blood pressure, weight checks, vision tests.
The staff also takes care of students with a full range of acute health problems -- sprains and strains, respiratory troubles and the fabled G.I. upset. "We can care for chronic problems too," says Dr. Miller, mentioning diabetes, cystic fibrosis and patients who've recovered from cancer. "Students realize they don't have to stay close to a medical center or their parents."
In addition to treating students, Dr. Miller and the staff provide training for residence advisers and student groups such as the Sexual Crisis Resource Center, AIDS Task Force and Body Image Network. The health center also works with other offices on campus to make arrangements for students with special needs and referrals.
The center isn't just for the sick or injured. The staff accommodates well visits for students who need to complete medical forms for post-graduate employment or overseas travel.
Because of the number of students who travel, the health service leads the county in overseas immunizations and numbers of cases of malaria treated. Mononucleosis -- with about 60 cases a year -- is much more common, however.
"We see the effects of group living," says Dr. Miller. "A lot of sneezing, coughing and kleenex utilized."
Physician assistant Carol Reed has worked at the health service for more than 20 years. "I love to watch a first-year student become a senior. The transformation is wonderful in most cases," says Reed, who is especially interested in being directly involved with her patients and their care. "What I hope is that we understand young adults and that they feel they can ask us anything -- not just medically with sore throats but with issues of confidentiality. We work to establish a bond and trust," says Reed.
"We strictly adhere to the principles of confidentiality. Students know nothing will be revealed and for some it's the first time they are really in charge. Their parents, deans, roommates don't know. It's their private health care and that's as it should be," says Dr. Miller.
The health center and its satellite office on the hill average 11,000 visits a year. "We see virtually every student at least once during his or her four years," says Merrill Miller, and she and her staff care for all of them.
The staff, from left, Paw Lewis, Jan Steates, Linda Maynard, Carol Reed, Debbie Dutkewych, Jackie Kwasnik, Nancy Orth, Mariel Vaughan and, seated in front, Dr. Merrill Miller.