On-campus health centers provide benefits for women

By Kayla Overbey

Friday, February 24, 2012

University of Kansas senior Meredith Kurc recalls her last experience at the Watkins Memorial Health Center as uncomfortable and a little awkward. She visited for gynecology reasons.

“Gyno appointments aren’t exactly the most fun,” Kurc said.

However, Kurc remembers the experience as altogether positive, despite the circumstances.

“They made me feel comfortable in an awkward situation,” she said. “I was completely satisfied with the service.”

But when it comes to service, many women are clueless about the extent of what the KU campus health center can provide. They are unaware of the services and as a result, don’t benefit from the lack of cost.  Kurc admits to being one of these students.

“I am only aware of the gynecology services,” she said. “I have no idea what other services they provide.”

Watkins Registered Nurse Candyce Waitley says she doesn’t think enough information is publicized about the benefits of women’s health at Watkins.

“During new student orientation in the summer the services are talked about,” she said, but she doesn’t think that’s enough.  “A lot of patients we see, we see as a result of somebody coming in and then just spreading the word.”

Waitley believes the most opportune time for students to start using the health center is now.

“It’s extremely important in terms of current health protection,” Waitley said. “Also, for the future, for young women to get into the habit of having an annual exam, and being seen in a gynecology clinic, then they get in that habit for a life-long practice.”

Women’s Health Services

Waitley says it’s common for many students to have their first gynecology exam at Watkins.

“We do many, many first exams on young women. We start many young women on oral contraceptives,” Waitley said.

According to Waitley, many young women use Watkins as an alternative to talking to their parents about sex.

“Because they’re away from home, they aren’t comfortable talking to parents—I mean, many parents are really great about that, but not all parents, and so they come here, and they do have the freedom.”

Beyond physical exams—like Pap tests and breast exams—the gynecology clinic offers vaccines, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, contraception distribution and more. It also provides counseling for a range of reasons such as fertility, preconception, pregnancy and unintended pregnancy.  Counseling happens in-person or over the phone.

“Sometimes students come in and they’re worried about their sexual relationships…They don’t necessarily need an exam or need to start on pills or anything like that,” Waitley said. “They just want to talk.”

Top Visits

The gynecology clinic sees students Monday through Saturday. Waitley says she and her colleagues see anywhere between 30 and 40 patients a day in the gynecology clinic.

“It just depends, we double-book often. That’s daily, Monday through Friday,” Waitley explained. “And on Saturdays we’re open from 12 to 4. It adds up to a lot of patients.”

The most visits to the gynecology clinic are for annual Pap smear exams and oral contraceptive counseling, says Waitley.

“With the annual Pap, often contraception is associated with that too, as is sexually transmitted disease testing. It all goes together,” Waitley said.

Affordability

The Watkins Memorial Health Center is a non-profit organization, and has discounted prices significantly for students in all areas of the clinic. To help keep it running, there is a $108.80 mandatory health fee included in each semester’s tuition.

Associate Director of Student Health Services Joe Gillespie says he’s surprised that students don’t explore what this student fee gives them access to.

Gillespie says the costs of some procedures such as x-rays and blood tests are reduced to ease financial burdens on students. Any visitor to Watkins is also exempt from copayments. He says that one of the top benefits is the time and cost savings when compared to travelling off-campus for healthcare.

“We continue to be surprised how some students are unaware of the benefits to which they are entitled by paying the health fee.  Along with that, many students are not aware of what we have to offer,” Gillespie says.

Meredith Kurc says she appreciates all that Watkins has to offer. “I could personally still afford health care without it, but it really saves a student like me money and time.”

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