Health Center has Plenty to Offer

Erica White

She had them start the session with their eyes closed and mini self-evaluations of which body part was relaxed.

Room 243 in the Administration building is quiet and cool. The lights are off and the blinds are open, letting in the natural light of a typical sunny California winter day. Movement is allowed, but it should be slow, mindful.

Scratching must be deliberate, thoughtful and considerate of others, so as not to disrupt anyone else’s groove.

“Whatever experience you have, it’s the right one for you,” Jeanne Townsend, the meditation facilitator, said.

It is the second meeting of the six-week Learn to Meditate lecture series sponsored by the Health Center and Staff Development. For six consecutive Wednesdays from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., Townsend will come to campus and teach faculty, staff and students techniques from her meditation toolbox.

“With meditation, we are doing three things: building concentration, sensory clarity,
and equanimity,” she said.

The group consists mostly of faculty and staff with a few students sprinkled among them.
Staff development personnel Bill Shamhart has been practicing meditation since he was a young adult.
“[I’m] interested in personal growth and different styles of meditation,” Shamhart said.
He is a rarity among the group as most are new to the practice. Townsend eases everyone’s concerns about “doing it right.”

“You’re on a journey of discovery,” Townsend said.

All she asks of her participants is that they be kind to themselves and have a gentle curiosity.
Curiosity is not only needed to find inner peace on the GCC campus. It’s also, and encouraged, to find out what’s going on at the Health Center.

Adjacent and to the right of the Administration building, past the coffee kiosk near the first floor of the San Rafael building is the Health Center. A GCC student ID number is all that is required for the primarily walk-in services provided.

The Health Center is solely supported on the mandatory $15 health fee added to GCC’s registration fees, Joy Cook associated dean of disabled students program and services said
Dietician Intern Lauren Medeiros is one of 12 Cal Poly Pomona graduate students on rotation at the Health Center. She and others address student nutrition concerns.

Medeiros provides in-depth nutritional advice and helps students figure out often confusing body mass index calculations and realistic health weight goals.

“Don’t limit yourself,” Medeiros said. “If you want a cookie go ahead and have a cookie. It’s all about moderation. You’re never going to stick to a diet unless you’re able to have what you want.”

Medeiros also shows students a free website called Spark people ( that has weight, goals and calorie trackers. Before goals are set and weight loss or maintenance can commence, Medeiros suggests that a person’s Basil Metabolic Rate (how many calories the body burns at rest) is calculated.

any calories a person should consume to maintain weight or to lose it.

“You have to take it all into consideration with your lifestyle, to set healthy weight loss goals,” Medeiros said.

Medeiros is thorough and genuinely concerned. She is open and often asks if there are any questions. She notes that the service is invaluable.

“[The school] saw the benefit of having other students come in and teach students about nutrition. If you go to an out-patient dietician its $500 an hour or more. We can help people who need help. Most people can’t afford that,” Medeiros said.

Help and education is the foundation of the Health Center.

“The mission of the Health Center is to serve students and meet student needs. And to educate students so that they are able to make their own health decisions,” Cook said.

The Health Center staff is warm. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the theme song to the TV show “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

Registered nurse Sharon Horejsi beams. She is one of two RN’s working at the Health Center.
Any student wishing to see a dietician or a mental health counselor must pass through Horejsi first.

The procedure is simple. A brief introduction, an explanation of the reason for the visit, and then an appointment time is given.
Horejsi talks freely and eagerly about the services rendered. It is clear she enjoys what she does.

“Most people think ‘school nurse, what do they know,’ but we have a few nurses here that work in the intensive care unit,” Horejsi said. “We all have very diverse background.”

Horejsi herself has 20 years of extensive training as a registered nurse.

“We usually deal with a lot of injuries. Broken arms and ankles. Once, we had a student come in that got into a motorcycle accident. He was so pumped from adrenaline that he hadn’t realized he was hurt until he came to school,” Horejsi said.

“At times we go out on runs. During those times we take the emergency bag,” Horejsi said, pointing at a carry-on sized rolling suitcase. “You never know what’s going to come through that door.”

All services at the Health Center are free, as long as it is acute and not a chronic condition although there are some exceptions. A nurse practitioner comes in once a month for women’s health appointments.

For $28 women can get a pap smear. The nurse practitioner also does tests for sexually transmitted diseases.

Doctors from Glendale Adventist Hospital rotate and come in once a month as well.

Pregnancy tests are available for $5, and tuberculosis skin tests are free.

Over the counter medicines such as aspirin and cough syrup are provided free to credited GCC students once they have signed out for them. The Health Center also has a cot room allowing students to rest for up to an hour.

Calling 911 is always a back-up for more serious conditions such as trouble breathing or chest pains, but the Health Center is more than able to accommodate until emergency services arrive.
All students will benefit from a 45 to 50 minute session with mental health counselor Crescent Orpelli.

It can be intimidating speaking candidly about fears and concerns with an attentive listener present.

Especially when the communication of today is done so remotely through Facebook, texting and telephones. But Orpelli is so welcoming and sincere that information will flow freely.

“It’s a great way to have a confidential conversation with no agenda other than the agenda you want for yourself,” Orpelli said.
Mental health counselors deal with a range of issues. Students can come and talk freely about sexual identity, academic stress, grief, loss and relationships.

“It’s a really powerful service and it’s free to the students,” Orpelli said.

At different times during the year men and women support groups are offered that correlate with student issues along with individual sessions.
“That’s the beauty of counseling, it matches your needs,” Orpelli said.

Orpelli also brings speakers to campus to talk about wellness. On March 22 Orpelli will have a speaker lecture on non-violent communication/compassionate communication. The lecture promises to teach a way to communicate with others in a way that inspires authenticity, openness and compassion. More details to be announced as the date approaches.

The Health Center is open Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments can be made by calling (818) 551-5189. TB skin tests are done Monday, Tuesday and Friday. All students are welcome.