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November 11, 2009 > Ohlone College's Student Health Center Celebrates Growth and Success

Ohlone College's Student Health Center Celebrates Growth and Success

Almost a decade and a half ago, the leadership teams of Ohlone College, Washington Hospital and Fremont Bank came together to forge a new vision of a new student health services delivery model in the form of the Ohlone Student Health Center.
Last month, the center celebrated the impact this shared vision has had on more than 170,000 students since the center's opening on January 17, 1996.

"As many of you know, 14 years ago Ohlone Community College was one of the few community colleges in California without a student health center," said Washington Hospital CEO Nancy Farber during the open house. "At that time, the only health care provider available to students was a nurse who would teach health education programs in the classroom, organize campus wellness events, provide first aid services and triage students to community physicians when needed for health care services."

Sally Bratton, nurse practitioner and Director of the Student Health Center, who was hired in 1995 prior to the center's opening, says that last month's open house was a testament to the program's continued progress.

"What this open house symbolized was our growth and success as a student health center, our move from a portable building to a space in new Student Services Building," Bratton says. "Realization of the center was a result of pulling together the people who had the vision, including Floyd Hogue, Past President, Ohlone College; Anne Golseth, Vice President of Student Services; Lisa Waits, Director of Campus Activities; and Nancy Farber - it was their vision. It was an involvement from Washington Hospital, Fremont Bank - collaboration on behalf people on both boards. It was just magic, so nice to see everybody together."

Today, the Ohlone Student Health Center provides students with unlimited access to the center's no-cost and/or low-cost services, which include:
* First aid
* Minor laceration repair
* Lab and X-ray services
* Over-the-counter medicine
* Immunizations, including flu shots
* Personal counseling
* Free-of-charge family planning services, including birth control, STD testing and pregnancy testing

Bratton says access to low-cost student health care is a critical service for an under-served population. When she first started as the center's director, as much as 40 percent of the student population did not have health insurance. Today, while the number of uninsured students has dropped closer to 20 percent, she says the benefit and convenience of providing access to no-cost and low-cost services remain - even for students with insurance.

"Many of the students we see have insurance, but it's easier to be seen on campus," Bratton explains. "Students are very grateful that seeking medical attention doesn't disrupt classes and they don't have to skip work. And I also can get them low-cost/no-cost medications through the center in many cases. That's a huge advantage.

"This is the students' transition from their Mom and Dad taking care of them to doing self-care and making good choices for their health, and you want them to make good decisions as they move into adulthood."

Bratton says she hit the ground running when she was hired in December of 1995. Having worked in family practice and pediatrics since 1972, she says this experience gave her the tools to grow the student health center's services to keep pace with an expanding student population.

"When we first started we had 6,000 students; we now have 13,000," Bratton says.
Bratton started out as the sole employee of the student health center, under the medical direction of Dr. Gail Dressler, the center's first medical director. In 2002, Dr. Steven Curran became the center's current medical director.

The center now has nine employees, including: director, a part-time nurse practitioner who provides family practice and family planning services, a medical assistant, an administrative secretary, two student helpers, one full-time marriage family therapist (MFT)/life coach, a part-time psychologist and a part-time health educator.

"Looking back across almost fourteen years, it's just amazing," Bratton says. "We've gone from a little modular building to an almost 4,900 square-foot clinical space and lab."

The impact of Ohlone College's collaboration with Washington Hospital to bring health care to its student population has even gone well beyond the borders of the college, according to Nancy Farber.

"This collaborative effort had a great impact on the students of Ohlone College but it also served as a model for other community colleges in the state," she said during the open house. "In fact, this effort represented the first time a California community college partnered with a community hospital to offer primary care, first aid and educational services to the general student population.

"This student health care delivery model became a benchmark for those California community colleges that still had not opened a health center and became a stimulus for those with existing health centers to expand their on-site primary care services."

A history of collaboration

Washington Hospital and Ohlone College have partnered many times during the past decades. Washington Hospital, under the leadership of the late Richard M. Warren, provided the seed money to start the nursing program at Ohlone College. Then, in 1997, Washington Hospital helped launch a new physical therapist assistant program at Ohlone. The hospital also has provided clinical learning experiences for students in all of the health science programs and has provided nurses to serve as clinical instructors for Ohlone students.

In 2003, Washington Township's Board of Directors provided a $1.5 million grant to help expand the nursing program at Ohlone College and the Richard M. Warren Nursing Skills Lab was built on the Hospital's campus to help student nurses develop their skills within a hospital environment. As a result, many Ohlone nursing graduates have joined Washington Hospital's nursing staff to give back to their community.

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