Students calling the Student Care Center (SCC) are able to book an appointment within the half day in 90 percent of cases, said Interim Assistant Vice President for Student Health and Counseling Alex Lickerman (M.D. ’92) at a student forum in the Regenstein Library sponsored by the College Council on Thursday.
About 20 students attended the forum, which also included a question-and-answer session with MAC Property Management.
The improvement in securing appointments is just the first in a series of changes Lickerman plans to make to improve satisfaction with health care services.
“I certainly understand that there’s been a lot of dissatisfaction with the student services,” said Lickerman, before going on to describe his further plans to improve the SCC and Student Care Resources Center (SCRS).
Lickerman said when he took the position in December he had four goals for improving student health care. First, he said that he wanted to provide outstanding clinical care, which he said he felt was already being done; second, that there must be excellent customer service that makes students feel welcome; third, that open access scheduling must be implemented to make it possible to get timely appointments; and finally, that a health promotion and wellness system be created.
However, Lickerman said the new, on-campus site for the SCC and SCRS would not happen realistically for 18 months to two years.
The current division of the two resources was problematic because of the lack of communication between the two institutions, which acts as a barrier to receiving mental health care, Lickerman said. “Right now, these are very siloed, very separate, almost like separate businesses with different corporate cultures.”
Additionally, he said, the physical issues with both centers need to be addressed: The independent SCRS building and waiting room is an impediment to confidentiality, and the SCC is difficult to locate in the mazelike University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) building.
“Those of you who have been to Student Care know that it’s basically a dungeon,” Lickerman said.
The new scheduling system eliminated unnecessary appointment categories and rescheduled physicians so that when patient rooms are available, doctors are available to provide care as well.
Lickerman said he hadn’t been trumpeting the news because he was concerned numbers would go up as students found it easier to make appointments, and they still don’t have the resources to reach 100 percent success in timely appointments. Currently, the average student makes three-and-a-half visits to the SCC.
He’s planning to renovate the space to create more rooms and hire one or two more doctors by September.
Still, Lickerman said, his staff now knows, “You should never be turned away if you walk in.” Lickerman said that for a small percentage of urgent cases that couldn’t be booked within the half day, a student would be able to either speak on the phone or meet in person with a nurse, who would diagnose his or her symptoms and decide whether or not the student needed immediate care.
Finally, Lickerman said that over the course of years, he aimed to establish the top university health and wellness program in the country. He hopes to establish what he calls a “shadow curriculum” that teaches students about how to take care of their health and how to cope better with illness.
He said that while the SCRS provides good care and, unlike many other schools, does not have a waiting list, he wanted to work on prevention. Lickerman said mental illness prevention could be summed up in one word: resilience, or “being able to survive and thrive under adverse situations.”
He said this is a skill that can be learned, and that he would rely on metrics to figure out what programs were successful and which ones didn’t really work. “I want to know what [top programs] are doing, I want to know what works, and I want to take it another step,” he said.
Another key would be to help students become well-informed health care consumers so they could “navigate the insane health care system that’s out there” when they graduate.
A student asked how one could give feedback about the SCC and SCRS, and Lickerman said he wanted to get phone calls and emails directly from students to help address their concerns.