Health Center Gives More Than Free Condoms

El Vaquero Staff Writer

College students become even more susceptible to colds and flu as the months begin to get colder, according to nurses at the GCC Health Center. For this reason, the Center has made several services available to students for the treatment and prevention of sickness — not just during the colder months, but year round.

Beginning in October, the Health Center started offering flu shots to students and faculty to help prevent the seasonal epidemic.
“We ordered 250 flu shots at the beginning of the semester,” says Mary Mirch, Associate Dean of Health Services and a registered nurse. “They were used up in less than a month. Two hundred fifty people came in for the shots.”

Aside from the flu shots, the Health Center offers a variety of other services, which include Registered Nurse (RN) Evaluation for those in the nursing program, blood pressure checks, crisis counseling for those with emotional and psychological struggles, hearing and vision tests, and immunizations for measles, mumps, rubella and tetanus-diphtheria. Over-the-counter medications for common ailments such as muscle pain, sore throat, headache and colds are also readily available for free at the front desk along with condoms. Doctor visits for specific medical conditions can also be arranged by appointment.

Free informational materials on health-related topics such as contraception and STDs, can also be picked up from the center at any time. Besides English, the pamphlets are available in other languages, including Spanish and Korean, and will soon be available in Armenian.

Louis Garcia, a part-time nurse at the center, said that many students also come in for TB testing. “I administer TB tests to students who need them for the nursing program, T4 [teaching] program and child development classes,” Garcia said.

The Health Center provides first aid for emergency situations. “Sometimes we get calls from out there [on campus],” Garcia said. “People have seizures, chest pains, anxiety attacks or injuries from falling. We give first aid, and sometimes we call the paramedics.”

However, Garcia says that such situations are uncommon. “We only get calls for seizures maybe once a month,” he said.

Another important service available at the health center is free and anonymous HIV testing. According to Mirch, the anonymous testing has an advantage because “we can test anyone without having to know who they are,” compared to confidential HIV testing, wherein the person’s name and some personal information still has to be acquired.

“We value the fact that we can do this kind of testing,” said Mirch. She went on to say that this service is not only available to GCC students and staff, but also to their partner. So far, only one person has tested positive for HIV, according to the dean nurse.
According to Mirch, an average of 1,100 students come in for health services every month. “That’s not even counting those who just come in for over-the-counter drugs, information or anonymous HIV testing,” she said.

Garcia added that GCC students and staff are “pretty healthy.”
“If you compare the number of students enrolled to the students who come in and take over-the-counter medication or need treatment, you’ll see it’s not a huge number,” Garcia said.

A recent addition to the center’s services is the free nutritional counseling provided by dietetic interns. Information about basic nutrition and diet facts and advice for healthy weight loss and maintenance are given to students and staff by appointment only.
This week, the Center also began offering forums for gay men to talk and meet with others from the homosexual community. The forums will be held every Tuesday night, and refreshments will be served.
Four nurses are available 88 hours a week, according to Mirch. This includes two who are on the staff full-time, one who is Spanish-speaking and one male nurse who can attend to specific needs of male patients.

“The staff that we have gives us flexibility and accommodates diversity,” Mirch said.

The ASGCC has allocated $5,000 for doctors’ services and $2,000 for immunizations out of its budget for the academic year 2005-2006. Other health services are paid for by the $12 health fee charged to every student upon enrollment.

The Health Center is located on the first floor of the San Rafael building and is open Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.