Sarah Blugis: Why the Vern needs a health clinic

It’s the morning of the midterm in your most difficult class. And to your dismay, you wake with a sore throat, a fever and nausea, in need of a doctor’s note to give your professor.

But there’s a bigger problem – you live on the Mount Vernon Campus, where there isn’t even a nurse.

Students should not have to travel down to Foggy Bottom to Student Health Service for medical attention. The Vern needs its own health clinic with a nurse practitioner.

Vern residents plan ahead to avoid extra trips back and forth from Foggy Bottom. But when you’re sick, the last thing you want to do is travel.

Avoiding the doctor is never a good idea. And with a bad cold or the flu, it is even more unlikely that students will make the trek to K Street.

At the beginning of the fall 2012 semester, EMeRG finally got an ambulance to service the Vern in addition to Foggy Bottom. But as its name implies, EMeRG’s purpose is for medical emergencies – not seasonal viruses or colds. Many students who are sick don’t need an ambulance or a trip to the hospital. They just need a doctor or nurse to diagnose their symptoms and, in some cases, prescribe medication.

Aside from convenience, a small nursing clinic on the Vern would keep contagious students away from others on the often packed Vern Express. Plus, it will make it easier for students to obtain a doctor’s note to excuse a missed class due to illness.

Over the past few years, the University has been trying to encourage students to stay healthy. There are plans to make both Foggy Bottom and the Vern campus smoke-free in the fall, banning smoking within 25 feet of campus buildings. And the Center for Student Engagement is going to start offering cooking classes and weight loss seminars to help students maintain a healthy lifestyle.

While these are all valuable and worthy causes to foster a healthier student body, there is definitely more the University can do to accommodate health needs.

In the past few years, GW has been trying to make the Vern a more attractive place for students. With the reconstruction of Ames Hall, the opening of Pelham Commons in West Hall and the growing number of courses being taught there each semester, GW is clearly trying to incentivize living on the Vern. Establishing a health clinic on the campus would be a logical step toward creating a sense of community there.

For students who don’t live in Foggy Bottom, it’s easier to stay in bed while sick than venture onto a shuttle and then to K Street to Student Health Service. Opening a Vern clinic during regular business hours would offer residents the care they need.

Sarah Blugis is a freshman majoring in political communication.

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