July 21, 2004

Health facility to offer students one-stop shopping

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A new Student Health Programs facility at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will offer students a continuum of care under one roof.

SIUC officials and student leaders broke ground today (July 21) for the 57,000-square-foot building. The event was ceremonial, as construction began last month. But the ceremony offered campus leaders the opportunity to emphasize the role of students in pushing for the new facility Ð and students' willingness to pay for it.

Student health fees will pay off the bulk of the $9.6 million in bonds issued for the facility, going up adjacent to the Student Recreation Center on the campus' east side. For the past 39 years, Student Health Programs has been housed in two buildings on Greek Row on the far west side of campus.

General contractor is Zeller Construction Inc. of Marion.

The new facility will house the medical clinic, pharmacy, Wellness Center, student emergency dental service, Counseling Center, insurance office, immunizations, laboratory, radiology, mental health clinic, sports medicine, Women's Services, and physical therapy from the clinical center, which currently is a component of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. It also will house a 120-seat auditorium as well as conference rooms.

Chancellor Walter V. Wendler said the new building, which will open in fall 2005, will serve as yet another example of SIUC's commitment to meeting all the needs of students.

"One of the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment is to expand the services offered to meet our students' health care needs," Wendler said. "Addressing the physical, emotional and psychological needs of our students is vital to ensuring their success on our campus."

Larry H. Dietz, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management, emphasized that the new facility is not an addition to the Student Recreation Center.

"It is planned to be attached to the existing facility, but the symbolism of this is that we really now are able to merge three departments in a continuum of health care," he said. "At one end, we have fun and recreation, which relates to wellness and fitness. This new facility will allow for the physical health needs of our students to be taken care of, and through the Counseling Center, students' behavioral needs can be addressed. There currently are too many opportunities to get lost in the process. Here it will be not only more convenient, but more effective."

Dietz believes the new facility will have a positive impact on recruitment and retention of students.

"Mom and Dad and the student want to make sure that if the student gets ill, there's a place that offers a quality program that can help them out," he said. "The healthy student is more likely to go to class. The healthy student is more likely to go to work. The healthy student, both psychologically as well as physically, is just more likely to be more successful."

Cheryl A. Presley, director of Student Health Programs, foresees the new facility serving as a model for other universities.

"It is combining many departments that typically on a large campus are not combined," she said. "This is a rare opportunity for us to put all of those aspects of health care under one roof."

The new building also will feature sustainable architecture.

"It's both environmentally sound and people-friendly," Presley noted. "For example, we chose cork flooring, which is made of 100 percent recycled products. It also is known to be better for people who are on their feet for their entire professional life."

Student Health Programs' role extends beyond treating illnesses, Presley said, referring to its focus on education.

"We are training health consumers, and sometimes we only have one shot at doing that," she said. "We hope to create a profound impression in a positive way, in an atmosphere where they don't have to be sick to come back. Come in if you want some literature or visit the Wellness Center."

Presley believes Student Health Programs plays a vital role in the University's academic mission.

"How can we get that student back into the classroom or assist the student through times of physical or psychological vulnerability, with the goal of helping them graduate?" she asked. "We are constantly asking ourselves how we can keep the students here. The minute they leave campus because of a physical or psychological illness, the probability of them returning here is almost nil for two reasons: the financial burden and the thought of returning to an environment they left under adverse circumstances. The more we can do to help the student stay here, to help them prevent illnesses or manage illnesses, the better it is for our retention."

The 101 full-time Student Health employees are anxiously awaiting completion of their new facility -- so much so, in fact, that they have contributed $25,000 of their own money toward the project.

"That's significant, because it helps the students understand we're as committed as they are to this project," Presley said.