This year, a student will lead the committee that advises Yale Health for the first time.

In September, the Yale Health Member Advisory Committee elected Ernest Baskin GRD ’16 as its chair for the 2013-’14 academic year. Composed of representatives from several sectors of the Yale community including students, faculty and staff, the committee helps Yale Health administrators make decisions about health plan coverage and services. Students interviewed said Baskin’s appointment as chair of the committee marks a turning point for student involvement in administrative affairs.

“I think that having a student be the chair is really important,” Baskin said. “It shows that [the committee members] recognize the importance of the student population and … allows the students’ needs to come a little more to the forefront of the topics of discussion.”

As chair of the committee, Baskin said he will work with Yale Health administrators to set the agenda and preside over meetings, as well as to ensure that each committee member’s voice is heard.

Baskin’s selection as committee chair reflects a recent shift toward consulting students in University decision-making, said Steven Reilly GRD ’15, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate.

“The administration clearly expects a lot and thinks highly of students to let them get involved at such high levels,” he said. “I think it is really important for students to set the priorities of the University.”

Baskin said students have increasingly gained access to various campus committees during his time at Yale. He added that the recent selection of University President Peter Salovey, who attended Yale as a graduate student and served as president of the GPSS, bodes well for students hoping to influence University affairs.

Baskin said he has served for the past two years as the GPSS representative to the advisory committee and has regularly brought information about the needs of Yale students to the committee’s attention.

Based on conversations with members of the Yale community, discussions at student leadership forums and the results of a GPSS survey of over 20 percent of Yale graduate students, Baskin said he has set two central goals for his time as committee head: improving access to mental health treatment by bringing down wait times at Yale Health, and advocating for increased access and hours of operation for other wellness resources such as gyms and libraries.

Lauren Tilton GRD ’16, advocacy chair for the GPSS, said Baskin has demonstrated a strong commitment to mastering the details of both the Yale Health Plan and its direct impact on students during his time on the advisory committee.

“By understanding in-depth the plans for students and their needs, he’s been a real advocate for the student population,” Tilton said. “It takes a lot of time and dedication to learn what it takes to ask the right questions and be an advocate, especially for something as complicated at the Yale Health Plan.”

Yale Health member services department manager Catherine Kelly, who has worked closely with Baskin during his tenure on the committee, said in a Tuesday email that Baskin has provided “invaluable” information about student perceptions of Yale Health. She added that the committee is “delighted” to see a student appointed as the chairperson.

“Student feedback is instrumental in shaping [students’] experience and interactions with Yale Health,” Kelly said.

Two undergraduate student representatives from the Yale College Council also serve on the committee.

Newly-elected representative Marija Kamceva ’15 said she applied for the position in the hopes of improving Yale’s mental health and counseling services. Students’ experiences with Yale Health vary from success stories to tales of long wait-times and a lack of available counselors, she said.

“I think it is very important for undergrads to have a voice, because there are a lot of things that could be better,” Kamceva said.

Other members of the advisory committee include current and former faculty members as well as Library and Yale Health staff.