A Harvard student who sits for an hour in the walk-in clinic of the University Health Services (UHS) only to be told that his appendicitis is psychosomatic, can now constructively voice his complaints.
Complaint forms dealing with unpleasant experiences at the Health Center are now available in several Harvard and Radcliffe Houses, in one of a number of steps which Margaret S. McKenna '70, assistant to the Director of UHS, has initiated this year to improve student participation in medical services provided by the University.
"Most students are too mad, shy, or sick to complain while they're here," McKenna said Friday. "The complaint form is one way to open channels, and to collect documentation so that things can change." These forms are confidential, and should be forwarded to McKenna.
Another key link between UHS and students initiated this year is the instigation of student health service representatives, who meet regularly with McKenna to discuss problems of UHS.
Lee E. Sheehy '73, a representative in Winthrop House, put up sample complaint forms on the House bulletin boards last week, with the notice that they are available in the Senior Tutor's Office. He said Friday that the goal of the representatives is to increase interpersonal contact between students and UHS, instead of the existing "business-consumer" relationship.
A long-range idea which McKenna said UHS should look into, as a method of preventive medicine, is the use of student aides within each House who are trained in Health Care, and could act both as "student-medics" and as referral advisors to specific University doctors.
"Instead of going all the way to UHS with a cold, just to be told to drink liquids and take aspirin, they could find out that's really all that can be done, from a student in the house," McKenna explained.
In 1968 the University of Nebraska initiated such a health-aid program involving student counsellors. Each aide receives $25 a month, as well as course credit for a weekly class on Public Health. The students, one for each University living unit, have non-prescription medicine and first-aid kits to handle minor student health problems.
Barry Pilger, a senior at Nebraska who helped initiate the program, said Friday that in the year 1970-71, over 10,000 contacts were made with these aides, and only 10 per cent of these were serious enough to require further clinical help.
"This has done wonders for the patient load," he said. "It's even been useful in heading off epidemics." Pilger said there are approximately 200 such aides for the 21,500 students at the University.
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