As the days grow progressively shorter and colder with the approach of the first snowfall, the symptoms of impending winter will become increasingly apparent as Yale students fall victim to relentless coughing and sneezing.
The local Rite Aid and CVS pharmacies will inevitably see a rise in the sale of such cold and flu medicine favorites as Robitussin and NyQuil, purchased by students who are busy stocking their medicine shelves in an effort to stave off a variety of seasonal ailments.
Yalies are smart enough to combat “minor illnesses” on their own, without the help of University Health Services, Bertrand Maher ’04 said.
“I tend to just take cold medicine [when I’m ill],” he said. “If I’m really sick, I’ll take a day off to sleep and rest.”
Maher’s insistence on curing himself seems to be common among Yalies, as many adamantly refuse to visit UHS. While lack of concern over the common cold keeps some students away, others avoid UHS even when they are most in need of care.
After suffering a sports-related injury, Kristine DiColandrea ’07 neglected to see a doctor at UHS, commonly referred to by students as “DUH” for its former title, the Department of Undergraduate Health.
“I delayed my visit to DUH because I wasn’t sure of how severe my injury was,” she said. “And I thought it would get better on its own, so [I didn’t go to DUH until] my roommates urged me to go.”
The seemingly commonplace sentiment that injuries will heal on their own accounts for only part of the resistance to UHS. Many students’ hesitance to take advantage of UHS’s numerous services — which include everything from immunizations and contraception to urgent care and long-term treatment for patients with serious conditions — results from dissatisfaction with the care they have received.
Audrey An ’05, who said she visits UHS about once a semester, described her experiences there as “incredibly variable.” She said it once took physicians a week to determine whether an injury to her foot was a sprain or a stress fracture.
“I went to Urgent Care, and they told me to come back the next day for an X-ray,” she said. “I came back and had X-rays taken, but there was no radiologist to look at them, so I came in [the following day], but they told me I couldn’t just come in — I had to call three days in advance to get the X-rays looked at.”
Though some students have complaints about speed of service, UHS Chief of Student Medicine James Perlotto emphasized UHS’s accessibility to students and the staff’s endeavors to accommodate all patients in a timely manner.
“A good way to access the system is to make an appointment in advance, but we do our very best to see students the same day if they just happen to walk into the clinic,” Perlotto said.
An’s more positive experience with Sports Medicine — a UHS department where students with sports-related injuries can receive specialized care — is in concurrence with Perlotto’s favorable account of UHS services.
“Dr. Goldberg [of Sports Medicine] gave me very helpful, detailed information,” An, a water polo player, said. “He also gave me a lot of supplies, like extra medical tape for the future.”
While many athletes said they are satisfied with the care they receive in Sports Medicine, Rebecca Dickens ’04 said she often consults her varsity cross country trainers for non-serious sports injuries.
“The trainers are really good,” Dickens said. “They’re good at telling us what to do for most athletic injuries.”
Access to trainers for certain varsity sports offers many students with sports-related injuries a convenient alternative to visiting UHS. But convenience may not be the only reason some athletes avoid UHS.
Dickens observed that Sports Medicine physicians have the authority to place students on a disabled list, which prevents their participation in sports for a period of time.
“If an injury isn’t that bad, you don’t want to be unable to play a sport,” Dickens said.
Although many students — athletes and nonathletes alike — have their own reasons for avoiding visits to UHS, actual student discontent with UHS services may be somewhat exaggerated.
Perlotto said he tries to address students’ concerns, but he thinks many students are satisfied with the quality of care at UHS.
“I see literally thousands of students each year who tell me they’re very pleased with the service [they receive],” he said. “Our staff [includes] M.D.s who are board-specialized, many of whom are faculty at the medical school, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who specialize in students and really care about and like to work with them.”
James Fishelson ’07 is one of many students who had nothing negative to say about his UHS experiences thus far. He went to Urgent Care with a sprained thumb and described the relatively efficient transaction that ensued.
“I didn’t have to wait too long, and the doctor took X-rays and returned [with a diagnosis] and put a plastic cast on,” Fishelson said. “I didn’t spend more than two hours [at UHS].”
Fishelson said he does not think students have anything to lose by going to UHS.
“Unless you’re lazy, there’s no reason not to go,” he said.
Some students were less enthusiastic than Fishelson, highlighting both the good and the bad aspects of UHS.
“I’ve been there a few times. The first time I dropped in, and it took two to three hours. It was awful,” Maher said. “The second time, I made an appointment and got right in. It was great.”
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