In a recent email to the student body, John Vaughn announced that Student Health would no longer be offering students the drop-in hours available under the recently adopted “open-access model.”
In order to see a doctor, students will now have to make an appointment ahead of time. It is hard to argue that the complaints Vaughn cites, particularly the extensive wait times, aren’t a real problem. However, requiring students to schedule appointments days in advance will make it harder for students, especially low-income students, to receive timely medical care for contagious illnesses. This is particularly concerning given the arrival of flu season.
The solution to this problem isn’t limiting access to drop-in appointments. If there were more practitioners available, students wouldn’t complain about several-hour long waits. In 2016, Duke budgeted approximately $30 million on the construction of the new Student Wellness Center. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the total cost of hiring a new primary care doctor is typically around $250,000. Instead of spending tens of millions of dollars on campus aesthetics, we should be making sure that every student can see a doctor in a reasonable amount of time.
Although access to quality health services doesn’t look as nice on an admissions tour as a shiny glass building with a grand piano, the health of the student body should be a bigger priority for both the administration and donors. Any university with a nearly $9 billion endowment, new $91 million dollar housing complex, and on-tap sparkling water can do better.
Kari Larsen is a Trinity sophomore and a contributing reporter for The Chronicle.