An inside look at the Health Center

A key part of adulthood is maintaining your physical and mental health. Beyond its well-known facilities, Rensselaer’s Student Health Center provides aid such as gynecological services, sports medicine, disability services, and mental health resources. Associate Director of the Student Health Center Kevin Readdean described the Health Center as “a primary care, health services, plus a whole lot more.” As an integrated service, the Health Center aims to help students from a holistic perspective.

When asked about the most underutilized services at the Health Center, Health Educator Lauryn Maleski brought up the office’s gynecological services. There seems to be a disconnect between the advertising of the services, and the extent to which students take advantage of them. From STI testing to regular checkups, the Health Center is available to students as an alternative to off campus locations. The second most underutilized service identified by Maleski and Readdean was the center’s mental health resources. Offering a variety of services, the Health Center hopes to offer as many types of care as they can. For instance, the Health Center recently began BHS Counseling Services, available at all times by phone or online with five free therapy sessions. Initiated just last summer, the Health Promotion Office is working to make the student body more aware of this service, so that students know that there is support available and someone to lead them to more long-term options, if needed. According to Readdean, staff in the Health Center are not mandated reporters: they are confidential sources, and a safe space for students to talk without having to go through an entire reporting process.

Another part of the Health Promotion Office is the Student Health Advisory Council, a group of student leaders on campus selected to work closely with the Health Center. The Council learns about the intricacies of the Health Center and attends bystander and other trainings to effectively communicate information to the student body. SHAC and the Health Center also work with many student groups on campus. For example, the Health Center has worked with RPI’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as well as many other groups who have specialized interests to support the student-led discussion of physical and mental health.

As RPI slowly transitions back to in person activities after the pandemic, the Health Center has followed suit, offering telehealth phone appointments. Additionally, most of their workshops are held online to maximize accessibility. Other than their focus on physical and mental health, the Health Center also handles sports medicine, an area that often goes unnoticed by those outside RPI Athletics. Health Promotion Office Program Manager Tara R. Schuster leads some sleep workshops, designed to help students who are struggling with their sleep patterns. Disability Services Director Claire Mahoney also works with students to establish equity in campus access, academic performance, and extracurricular activities.

Another facet to highlight is that the Health Center has received the highest level of accreditation since 1996. They like to make sure people know they are a standard medical facility so parents feel safe sending their children there and students with negative past experiences are comfortable going to the Health Center for care. Finally, staff wanted to repeat that they are not “fast food” medicine, as Readdean phrased it. Issues are more complex than just coming in, getting a diagnosis, and leaving. The Health Center works diligently to make sure they are giving the right diagnoses and treatments in order to keep students at their healthiest.

The goal of the Health Promotion Office is to educate students about the Health Center’s resources and offer evidence-based external resources to support student well-being. Working from the prevention aspect of their philosophy, they hold a variety of workshops, including a social anxiety group, trauma group, an upcoming men’s group, and general counseling groups throughout the year. They are also interested in hearing the types of workshops that would interest students and have many online spaces for students to easily engage with them including their Instagram, @rpi.studenthealth, as well as a Discord, Facebook, and Twitter. By working closely with the student body, the Health Center staff hope to learn from students’ feedback.