In the fall of 1974 when I was director of the Student Health Center at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, I received a call from Bill Kelly, the Dean of Student Services at Saddleback. He was interested in learning about our health center as they were planning to open one there. He made two visits in order to learn as much as he could. On his second visit, I indicated that I would be interested in the director position if my salary could stay the same. I lived only a few miles from the Saddleback campus at the time and was anxious to give up my half hour drive to work. I didn't hear back from Bill until July of 1975 when he called to tell me the board of trustees was meeting that night and, “Was I still interested in the job?” If so, it was mine! I graciously accepted and sent my resignation to Golden West effective the beginning of the following fall semester.
I met several times with the facilities people and learned that the Health Center would be located on the lower campus in a prefabricated building (i.e., portable). It was partitioned off to include a waiting room, space for a secretary, offices for the doctors, psychologist, nurse, exam rooms, cot room, and rest room. I was fortunate to have had previous experience in a college health center because it gave me a good idea of the needs of such a facility and where challenges might arise.
When we opened in the fall of 1975, our medical staff consisted of two general practitioners: a gynecologist and a dermatologist. They were hired on a part-time basis knowing that their hours would increase as needed. Several of the doctors were new to the area or were just starting their practices so working part-time fit well within their schedules. I was fortunate to find exceptionally competent doctors with some very interesting backgrounds. For example, one of our general practitioners had been with the Dutch Underground during World War II. He had been a waiter in a restaurant where some of the German officers ate and met to discuss troop movements and other secret information. His orders were to hover nearby as he waited on them to listen and then report back what he had heard.
This same doctor diagnosed a rare tropical condition in one of our students who had traveled to a country where the disease was prevalent and where the doctor had once worked in a medical clinic. Clearly, we were lucky to assemble such a great group of physicians. As time went by, when our doctors' private practices became too busy, they requested to leave their health center positions and new doctors were hired to replace them.
In addition to our medical staff, I hired a psychologist. I believed the students would greatly benefit from this kind of service. After some time, I hired another psychologist so students wouldn't have to wait as long to be seen. Students were allowed six visits per semester and continue receiving services if there was no one on the waiting list. Due to the growing need for counseling (as well as an increase in student registration), I ultimately hired a third psychologist. As the student body grew, I met with the academic counselors and asked if anyone was interested in being a member of our crisis intervention team. They would be responsible for talking with students in crisis when none of our regular psychologists was available. Several people stepped up and served the students well.
Funding for the health center came from a health fee charged to all students each semester in the amount of $13.00, which when totaled, gave us a budget of three hundred thousand dollars or more depending on the enrollment. This budget covered all our expenses including salaries for everyone, medical supplies, and medicines. We did not receive any money from the general fund. Each year, I presented a prepared budget to the dean of student services for approval and it was my responsibility to keep spending within that budget. I was happy we were often able to have extra money to hold over for the next year.
Marion Cain, our fantastic office secretary, was responsible for keeping all the records and patient charts in order and up to date. She did a stellar job. I had a feeling she would be a good fit from when she first walked in the door. In fact, during the time I was interviewing secretaries when we first opened the center and before I even spoke to her, I said to myself, “That's the one I'm going to hire.” We are still good friends today.
The health center was open from Monday through Friday from 8 am to 9 pm. I worked from 8 to 4 and the evening nurse covered the 4 to 9 pm shift. During the summer session, the center was open from 8 to 4. All the doctors worked four hours on the days they were on duty. Some came two days a week and some came one day, depending on the need.
In 1977, the health center was moved to the upper campus where it was housed in the Student Services building. This center gave us more room and easier access to the other student services. Additionally, because of this new centralized location, I believe it increased visibility to the student body that resulted in far better outreach and communication.
One of the biggest challenges I took on was what to do something about indoor smoking complaints I received from faculty and students. I met with the dean and suggested we form a campus health committee to help solve this problem. So with his approval, I contacted faculty, staff, and students whom I felt would be interested. We met a number of times and finally drafted a proposal that basically stated there was to be no smoking in any of the buildings or within twenty-five feet of any building entrance. The proposal was presented to the college board of trustees who approved it unanimously.
The health center provided a variety of services. The women could get their yearly pap smears and birth control medications. Other students received treatment for various skin conditions, colds, sprains, and many other health problems. We were also the first responders to emergencies such as the one in which an instructor was demonstrating how a nail gun worked and accidentally shot a nail through his wrist. He was taken to the local E.R. at Mission Hospital by the campus police as there was no doctor on duty at the time.
When students registered for any fitness class or were in the nursing program, they were required to have a blood panel done. I had made arrangements with a local laboratory to do our lab work. Samples were drawn by the health center and were picked up by the lab at the end of the day. A small fee was charged to the student for all lab work and for medications.
This was one of the most interesting and fulfilling jobs I ever had. I was happy to go to work every day, but by August 1998, I knew it was time to retire. It was a fantastic twenty-three years where I felt I made a difference in the lives of many students, staff and faculty. I only hope that the mark that I left continues to inspire positive growth and conscientious care for this wonderful college community.