It began with a pap smear. Now, if you feel the urge to snicker at the mention of a female health test, go ahead and laugh. But then keep reading, because what I’m about to say has to do with the health and safety of every woman on this campus.
Our female students might be wonderfully healthy. But isn’t the reason for having a Student Health Center the fact that most of us need the services of a doctor from time to time? While the staff admirably struggles through each day attempting to provide the best services they can given the shortage of funds and, hence, staff … the fact is, they are running uphill carrying half-filled buckets of water to put out a forest fire.
Where our Student Health Center used to provide a staff of available doctors, including specialists such as gynecologists, to treat a much smaller student community, we now have a huge number of students with no full-time gynecologists on staff. The Student Health Center has only one part-time gynecologist, who also happens to have a full-time practice outside of the university. Hence, pap smears at the Student Health Center are routinely done by a nurse, not a doctor. And if a problem is detected, then you can wait in the line to see the doctor. And if further problems are detected, you can wait for that part-time doctor to find the time to help you. So I spent my summer dealing with the severe budget cutbacks and shortage of available specialists at our Student Health Center.
I had the pap smear in June, and I later received a note that my health was fine. I set it aside and went on with my life. It wasn’t until late July that I received a call from the gynecologist associated with the Health Center. This doctor is excellent. One meeting, and you can tell that she tries to care for each patient as thoroughly as possible. She told me she was reviewing my test results and something didn’t add up. She wanted to conduct a more invasive endometrial biopsy. I asked if I could also have a blood test known as CA-125. For those of you who remember the late Gilda Radner (of ‘Saturday Night Live’), her husband advocates this test as a way to predict ovarian cancer. Within a few days I came in for both tests. I was told the results would be available sometime after a week. What a long week!
On Saturday, I received a message from the doctor asking me to call Monday morning to discuss my results. Oh, no! Another waiting period, only this time even scarier. She mentioned that everything looked ‘OK’ but her tone of voice didn’t quite fit. And why did she need to speak with me? Why not just leave a message that everything was fine? Several weeks have now gone by, and I never did speak with the doctor.
Why? Because she’s too overburdened to return my calls!
As a mature student, I know how to demand information, so I called the Student Health Center and made an appointment with a general practitioner who told me my tests came back normal