Visits to our Health Services rival the volume in ERs

by Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins

Drew/Health ServicesWhether they come in for counselling or the common cold, students, staff and faculty are well served by Concordia's Health Services (CHS).

Indeed, with family physicians, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, nurses, a dermatologist, a health educator, peer health educators and support staff at their disposal, the Concordia community has been keeping Concordia's Health Services busy. The clinic, which is open weekdays, saw nearly 22,000 patients last year alone, or 100 patients per day, which CHS Director Melanie Drew says is quite impressive.

"That's the same number of patients that went to the CLSC Metro last year," she said, from her CHS office. "Our numbers are even comparable to the emergency rooms of some of the McGill teaching hospitals, which see between 30,000 and 35,000 patients a year, and they're open 24 hours, seven days a week."

Concordia's Health Services successful is because it's tailored to the needs of students, who account for 85 per cent of its clientele. "Our raison d'Étre is to keep students healthy for school," Drew said.

General medical-care facilities, on the other hand, often don't recognize the needs of students. "There are specialties in pediatrics and gerontology," she said, yet no medical specialties exclusively geared to young adults. "Young people are considered to be in the prime of life. But by not addressing the issues young adults face, the medical community is doing them a disservice."

That's why diseases like testicular cancer often go undetected. Although testicular cancer represents only 1.1 per cent of all cancers for men in Canada, it is the most common cancer in males between the ages of 15 and 34. If detected early, cure rates are between 85 and 100 per cent. However, if not detected early, the prognosis is very poor. Most of the tumours that are detected early are noticed by men themselves during a testicular self-exam or accidentally.

At the CHS, professionals are trained to deal with student health issues that can be physical, like asthma and socially transmitted diseases, or mental, including mood swings, depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

At Health Services, consultations with physicians may take up to 30 minutes -- unlike regular clinics, where a client is lucky to get five minutes with a doctor. CHS professionals are also sensitive to the university's multicultural community, since most of them have worked in Montreal hospitals and are accustomed to dealing with a wide variety of patients.

At the CHS, health education is as important as treatment. Recent innovations include a Wellness Program that allows a person to measure his or her own level of "wellness," as well as the opportunity to work with a nurse on improving it. A series of wellness workshops was recently launched, as well as a smoking cessation program. This spring will see the launch of lunchtime group walks to promote physical fitness.

"We don't just treat people and send them home," she said. "We really want to make an impact on the community, and not just on individuals."

Concordia Health Services are at 2155 Guy St, on the fourth floor. Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 848-3565.


Photo: Director of Health Services Melanie Drew served as a nursing director at the Montreal General Hospital and as a head nurse at the Royal Victoria Hospital before coming to Concordia last July.

Asthma Education Clinic meets rising need

Concordia's Health Services has just created an Asthma Education Centre to provide the latest information about this widespread and potentially fatal disease. It is the first one to be established at a Canadian university.

Students can be severely affected by asthma, and so Health Services Director Melanie Drew says that setting up a clinic to treat and prevent the illness makes good sense. "If you look at the times people are likely to develop asthma, it's during high periods of stress, like when they're in school."

Up to 10 per cent of the population suffers from asthma, and the condition is on the rise among children. Statistics show that cases of asthma among children have doubled in the past two decades, ballooning to 12 per cent today. Because those children will eventually go on to university, Drew said, "creating an asthma clinic was a way to respond to a growing trend in the population."

The asthma clinic should be especially useful for foreign students, she said, since out-of-towners are often more susceptible to developing asthma when they encounter new pollutants, pollens and climatic conditions.

Like other programs offered at Health Services, the asthma clinic's approach to the illness is geared towards education, not just treatment. "Our goal is to get people to better understand their asthma and help keep it under control."

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Copyright 2000 Concordia's Thursday Report.