Duke’s new student health leader will use his web savvy to reach out to students.

Dr. John Vaughn, Duke’s newly appointed director of Student Health Services, wants to expand students’ access to health care by utilizing social media and collaboration with other departments. Prior to his appointment to Duke, Vaughn worked at Ohio State University since 2007. His views on an integrated student care system attracted the Office of Student Affairs after Dr. Bill Purdy, the previous director of Student Health, announced his retirement in Spring 2012.

Vaughn has used social media at OSU to achieve greater audience participation in the student health system. After creating, running and overseeing BuckMD, the student health blog at OSU, Vaughn was able to talk about uncomfortable but pertinent issues like sexual health and alcohol to over 50,000 viewers a month.

“If you’re going to be delivering health care to 18- to 30-year-olds, you have to do it the way they are going to access it,” said Vaughn, who hopes to take what he did at OSU to Duke. “You have to be online, you have to go and engage your students.” Vaughn, whose term will start July 1, noted that he intends to engage Student Health in a more active role in students’ lives. He hopes to reinstate a student health advisory committee to increase Student Health’s involvement in the student community.

“The Student Health Center can’t just be the place on campus that students go when they’re sick—we have to be there to do that too—but we have to be an active part of the academic life of the University,” Vaughn said. “My goal is to work with students to see what their needs are and find a way to reach out to them both in person and through social media.”

Vaughn’s optimistic and creative ideas made him a strong candidate for the position, said Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, who was involved in the hiring.

She added that the Student Health director is expected to wear a number of different hats.

“This person will be a clinician, they will be an administrator and they actually serve as the overall manager of Student Health from a personnel and budget standpoint,” she said. “But most importantly, in collaboration with many colleagues, he will focus on the health and well-being of Duke students.”

Sophomore Michael Washington, a senator in Duke Student Government, noted that Vaughn is committed to making Student Health a more visible and accessible entity on campus. Washington was responsible for representing the student perspective during Vaughn’s interviews.

“Dr. Vaughn, above any of the other candidates, really communicated his goals to work with students to make Student Health a more visible and accessible entity on campus,” Washington wrote in a email Thursday.

Vaughn’s extensive involvement in the college medical community, including being executive editor for the Journal of American College Health, has allowed him to monitor and become familiar with the current status of college students both locally and nationally.

Vaughn’s patients and their families speak highly of him both as a doctor and as a friend. Suhaan Mehta, a patient of Vaughn’s since 2008 and a graduate student at OSU, explained that Vaughn goes out of his way to make all situations between him and the students extremely comfortable. Vaughn keeps up with the personal lives of his patients, including Mehta’s studies and interests.

“He’s a mover and a shaker in student health—he’s got so many ideas that we’re just going to have to put on our seatbelts and get ready for the ride,” said Wasiolek. “To me, that’s a really positive thing.”