Health Center misdiagnosis: a potentially serious problem for students

Between poor sleeping and eating habits, communal living and constant partying, college students are extremely likely to get sick. This is certainly true here at Geneseo. Also true is the fact that most students are living away from home and their regular doctor. Therefore, students need a place where they can receive reliable medical care when they inevitably fall ill.

Lauderdale Center for Student Health and Counseling is supposed to meet this need, but in practice it often fails to. While many patients will receive quality health care, many students are met with a misdiagnosis or no diagnosis at all. This may mean the student is told they have the common cold when they actually have a more serious illness, or not even told what may be afflicting them.

A typical visit to the health center may proceed as follows. After a brief evaluation by a doctor or nurse practitioner, the student is sent off with a generic prescription and a recommendation to return if symptoms don't clear up in a week or two. If the examiner's assessment was inaccurate, then the student will probably remain sick until they make another appointment with the health center, or better yet a private doctor.

This prolonged sickness will have an unfortunate effect on the student's schoolwork and other activities which could easily have been avoided if the original treatment had worked.

A similar situation arises among students who are unable to get an appointment at the Health Center immediately after they become sick. During particularly busy times, students may have to wait days for treatment. This can exacerbate symptoms and lead to the spread of disease.

One example of this is the prevalence of pink eye among students last spring. While the word "epidemic" would certainly be an exaggeration, it was true that numerous students became infected at the same time and found that they were unable to get treatment immediately. Between the time when they were infected and when they got treated, many of these students spread the infection from one eye to the other and to other people as well.

There seemed to be no system in place at Lauderdale to deal with situations like this, where a disease that infects numerous students is relatively easy to recognize and clears up quickly upon treatment. The cause of the problems at Lauderdale is unclear. It also doesn't matter. Students' health and well-being are compromised when they are unable to receive reliable, effective medical treatment for illnesses every time they seek help. If Lauderdale is not able to provide this service, then some alternative needs to be set up. If this isn't possible, students should be made aware that they need to see a private doctor for all but the most basic illnesses.