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Students complain, and with good reason, about the difficulties of seeing a doctor at the University Health Services. Receptionists, students say, can be rude, appointments can be difficult to obtain, and waits in the UHS urgent care clinic can be long. Sometimes, students say they feel like UHS is working against them.
Crimson reporters know it. During a recent month-long investigation of the health services, reporters came to understand student frustrations when they began making calls to UHS doctors. Receptionists were surly, and they called Mary Kocyk--the assistant to UHS Director Dr. David S. Rosenthal '59--to ask about the heavy volume of calls.
The reporters had notified Kocyk of their intention to call doctors before spring break, and Kocyk assented. But under pressure from receptionists, she arranged for an electronic mail message to be sent throughout UHS that instructed all employees to not speak with The Crimson.
"Anyone taking a call from a Joe Matthews [sic] from the Crimson or anyone identifying themselves as from the Crimson should direct the caller to the UHS Director's Office," the message said.
Some doctors ignored the warning and agreed to interviews anyway. But many receptionists took it seriously, and refused to even take messages from The Crimson. Several hung up on reporters. Three secretaries said they had been told they would lose their jobs if they took messages.
In the end, however, the blackout backfired. Now aware of The Crimson's interest, employees in areas of UHS that reporters had not even thought of visiting began calling. One reporter got six calls alone from disgruntled workers in the UHS clinical laboratory, who talked about mishandling of laboratory specimens and offered suggestions for different articles.
Lab Technicians or Trivia Buffs...You Decide
In a world full of closed doors, reporters desperately seek open ones.
The UHS clinical laboratory was a closed door. A Crimson reporter had been asked to leave by Laboratory Manager Barbara Skane almost as soon as he entered the lab on April 2. And Skane and other lab officials had been close-mouthed on the allegations that specimens were improperly packaged.
Sometimes, though, closed doors open of their own accord. April 12-16, as luck would have it, was national laboratory week. And the lab, to celebrate, was holding tours open to the public.
Desperate for an opportunity to see what the lab looked like, The Crimson sent a reporter to take a guided tour. She was asked only if she were a student and knew anything about laboratories. Donna Weber, a laboratory side, gave a tour. There were refrigerators, incubators and even a small trash can of hazardous waste that was overflowing.
The reporter went to an ice cream party after the tour, where people were cordial. She even managed to grab some lab handouts, including the results of a trivia contest between laboratory employees. (Question: How many years of clinical laboratory experience do we have as a group? Answer 169.)
For the three-part series on UHS, reporters walked around dining halls interviewing students about their visits to the health services. At times it made for rather lively if disgusting, dinner conversation.
A student in Leverett House calmly ate pasta as she described UHS's inability to deal with a stomach problem which caused her constant diarrhea. One in North munched on a cookie as he related in gory detail just how much blood he lost in a motorcycle accident, for which he was treated by UHS.
For the most part, students were forthcoming. But some dining halls were less friendly than others. In Adams House, the first people one reporter approached were two female students. "Hi my names's Elie Kaunfer. We're doing a story, and I was wondering if I could talk with you about your health experiences there," he said cheerfully.
The reporter was met with a pair of icy stares. "We don't want to talk about our health experiences-with you," glared the students.
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