Season 6 - Episode 645
Baylor students can access physicians, nurses, physical therapists, psychiatrists and more through the Baylor Health Center. In this Baylor Connections, Dr. Sharon Stern, medical director for Baylor University Health Services, shares how the University provides for student health and is proactive in meeting needs throughout the year.
Derek Smith:Hello and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week we go in depth with Baylor Leaders, professors, and more discussing important topics in higher education, research and student life. I'm Derek Smith, and today we are talking Health, specifically Baylor University Health Services with Dr. Sharon Stern. Baylor University Health Services provides for the health needs of Baylor students through an accredited primary care ambulatory clinic, comprised of physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners, a psychiatrist, physical therapist, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, administrative and technical personnel, and more who provide a comprehensive array of services. We're visiting today with Dr. Sharon Stern. She serves as medical director in Baylor Health Services. She completed her MD in 1987, joined Baylor in 1992. She's been board certified in family practice for over three decades and has seen a lot of growth and changes at Baylor in the services to Baylor students in that time. Well, Dr. Stern, we really appreciate you taking the time to join us. Thanks for coming on Baylor Connections today.
Sharon Stern:It's my pleasure. Thank you.
Derek Smith:Well, we're pleased to have you with us. We know it's always busy throughout the year, and I know as we're at that time when the weather's changing, changing the seasons, it can be even busier. But let me ask you this to start off, if we were to roam the halls of Baylor Health Services, for people who haven't been there, really don't even know about it, what are some of the things we'd see taking place in there?
Sharon Stern:So you would see students who are recovering from injuries or surgery, going to our physical therapy area to see our physical therapist. You might see people picking up prescriptions in our pharmacy or buying over the counter products there. You would see students at the insurance office asking questions about the student health insurance plan and students checking in at our front desk to see providers or clinicians, our doctors and nurse practitioners in primary care and in psychiatry. We also have students who come to just get lab work done or to see a nurse to see if they need to see a provider, so to go through triage. So we have a lot of that.
Derek Smith:I even remember far back when I was a student getting my allergy shots that's in there. So yeah, a wide array of services.
Sharon Stern:A lot of vaccinations and allergy shots.
Sharon Stern:Keeps our nurses busy.
Derek Smith:Need those here in central Texas. A lot of great services there as we visit with Dr. Sharon Stern. And so Dr. Stern, what you just described, a lot of great services. That sounds a lot like what you'd find in a non university medical type center. So could you help us understand the framework of health services in higher education? Where are we? What's expected of a university like Baylor and how do we stack up?
Sharon Stern:I'm biased. I think we're very good compared to other universities. Over time, the health center model has changed a lot. In the very old days, it was often a nurse who just kind of helped to guide the students as to what to do and provide first aid. But now what we see, and oftentimes we would have an infirmary with a doctor on call, and now it's much more like what you'd find in any primary care clinic with extra services for that. So we are members of several different groups. One is what we call Big 12 and Friends Health Directors Group, and we actually just hosted that group on campus last week. And that is one way that we can compare how our services stack up and we right up there with the big players. So it's really good to see.
Derek Smith:Well, as you describe this, I'm curious, what would you describe as the hallmarks of Baylor Health Services? Are there aspects that we really shine in or that make us distinct or any direction?
Sharon Stern:So I think the things that we do very well include things like helping our students learn how to be good stewards of their own healthcare. Most students when they come to Baylor have never made an appointment for themselves, have never come to the doctor by themselves, and so it's a little bit, it's intimidating, the process is, and they need to learn about insurance, so we try to guide them. We also try to really accept them where they are. We help them understand how their choices can affect their health, not just now, but down the road. That's what I think we do the best. That is unique for health services. It's unlike what they would get at other primary care offices.
Derek Smith:Dr. Stern, when you think about Baylor Health Services, you're affiliated with others that provide care to students in student life, what does that look like?
Sharon Stern:So we are actually down the hall from the original counseling center and we work very, very closely with them. We're also down the hall from the care team and the care team is a group that we see most days, and so we work very closely with those two. We also try to understand all that's going on on campus because our students will present to us with certain things that relate to student activities. For example, things like sing, which is in February, which is kind of the height of flu season, and they're practicing in small rooms, dancing and singing. So it can be kind of an interesting combination.
Derek Smith:That's something I hadn't really thought about. You kind of know when students are congregating in large numbers on campus or sporting events or times when maybe, you talked about working with people in the mental health areas that's related to physical health.
Sharon Stern:Oh, very much so. And we do a lot of mental health in the health center. So we do, the primary care doctors do a great deal of treatment for anxiety and depression. We do have a psychiatrist and a mental health nurse practitioner, and they take care of the more complicated issues. But we are very comfortable taking care of medication needs for people with anxiety and depression.
Derek Smith:Talking Baylor Health Services with Dr. Sharon Stern and Dr. Stern as we talk about this, located in the McLane Student Life Center, McLane Student Life Center. And who all can utilize the services? Obviously students, is there anyone else that goes beyond that?
Sharon Stern:Primarily our services are for students. We do give immunizations to faculty and staff. We also, faculty and staff can utilize the pharmacy and that's a big plus for a lot of people, especially people who they're in buildings that are close to the SLC. So sometimes our physical therapist has enough room in his schedule that he's able to see faculty and staff. So those are our primary people.
Derek Smith:So let's zoom out just a little bit. You mentioned you work with psychiatrists and different clinicians. So tell us a little bit about who you work with. Not necessarily every name, but give us a peek inside the culture and what you enjoy about working with the colleagues with whom you work and getting to serve Baylor students.
Sharon Stern:So we have five primary care physicians and two nurse practitioners. We have the psychiatrist and mental health nurse practitioner. We have registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, medical assistants, the physical therapist, and two pharmacists and two pharmacy technicians. So that's a lot of people, but we are such a cohesive group. We all get along together, which is saying a lot, and we like to share celebrations. Right now we are having a pumpkin decorating contest. Anyone that walks past the health center is free to vote on their favorite, but they are very creative and we do try to have some cohesiveness as a group with working together with other things besides just work.
Derek Smith:What do you and your colleagues enjoy about, there's a lot of different directions you could take your medical skills, different places, you could employ it, but you choose to do that here at Baylor with college students. What do you enjoy about that? What have you enjoyed and continue to?
Sharon Stern:Oh my, I love college health. It's not a board certified specialty, but it is really a specialty. It is accepting the students where they are in their life, not being judgmental, helping them along the way, kind of showing them where the directions that life choices lead. I love it because the students, Baylor students are so happy most of the time and very polite, good kids. So I have loved my time at Baylor just taking care of the students. I love hearing their stories.
Derek Smith:This is Baylor Connections. We are visiting with Dr. Sharon Stern, medical director in Baylor University Health Services and Dr. Stern, this summer we saw some good news about accreditation, another accreditation that's been a part of Baylor Health Services for a long time. But let's break down a little bit about what this is and what some of that means. So to start off with, I described what I saw online, what you described at the top of the show as a primary care ambulatory clinic. So when someone in the healthcare industry hears that phrase, what does that say to them?
Sharon Stern:Well, ambulatory clinic just means that it's a walk-in clinic. It's not a hospital. It's something you walk into and walk out of. The primary care part, obviously that means we don't, we really don't have specialists. We have mostly people that can take care of a wide range of issues. The on-campus part is the thing that's a little bit different that most people in healthcare industry may not know anything about it unless they've worked in one or been closely associated with one.
Derek Smith:And you've long been accredited by the American Association for Ambulatory Healthcare since 2008. What does that represent? What does that mean to you?
Sharon Stern:It is, like most accrediting agencies, very, very strict. It has many, many requirements that you have to meet, lots of chapters that we have to write up, answer questions, send in all of our policies and protocols, and they look at all of that. Then they do a site visit, which is typically a day and a half of looking at every single thing, checking, some charting, that type of thing. It is very thorough and very good, and I feel like the benefit of it is that we really are able to go for superior healthcare for our Baylor students because of that process.
Derek Smith:It's every three years. So you just got the accreditation, when does the process for the next one begin?
Sharon Stern:So honestly, it is ongoing. We have yearly reviews of all the policies that we all do. We have things that we keep up with because if you wait until a year before, it's going to be too late. So we just do it all the time. We have peer reviews, we have benchmark studies that we do to make sure that we're documenting well, that we're treating conditions in the best possible way. And it is great. I just love that we do it. It's very, very helpful for us.
Derek Smith:You're in a dynamic industry too. Things are always changing. You mentioned benchmarking with colleagues from other Big 12 universities. How do you all evaluate? What are some of the key things that help you evaluate where you are, what you want to grow or maybe kind of see what... If you and I were talking four years ago at this time, we might not have known that right around the quarter was COVID, even that kind, I assume helps you prepare now for other unknowns. What does that whole process look like for you?
Sharon Stern:We all are in continuing medical education, and that helps us see things. We also do emergency drills all the time. And so we have had a process on campus for emergency preparedness. And that is something that really came in handy when COVID first started because we had done some workshops before for avian flu and for some other conditions. And so we were kind of ready except not because it was a lot more than what we'd prepared for, which I think is normal. That seems to be what most things are.
Derek Smith:We know another aspect of, you talked about the college, the campus-based nature of what you do is the calendar, whether that's Sing, whether that's finals, whether that's kids leaving for Thanksgiving break or spring break. Tell us a little bit about the calendar. How does that impact your focus and preparation?
Sharon Stern:It impacts it a lot between October through February, sometimes even March, we have a lot of respiratory illnesses, including influenza. We're actually an influenza surveillance site for the CDC. So we are constantly monitoring the numbers of flu diagnosis that we've given and positive tests and things like that. When intramurals are very busy, we often see some little injuries here and there, and that's all good. So yes, the calendar year, summers, we see a lot of well-woman and well-men exams because people have time and we have the space in our schedule to be able to see people because we don't see quite as many respiratory illnesses. Of course, the flu used to be a lot more predictable before the 2009 H1N1 flu came around.
Derek Smith:What are some things that are, as we're talking here, it's early November, what are some things that are front and center right now or efforts you're trying to make to prepare for what's ahead in the next few months?
Sharon Stern:So we are really thinking about influenza. We're also thinking about COVID and the combination of the two because we have seen people that have both at the same time and they are very sick. We are doing our mobile health flu shot clinics. So we go around to different places on campus and students, faculty and staff can come by. They can walk in. They can also make an appointment so they know what time to come. We've had three and we have two more. And it's really fun. We have student ambassadors from our student health advisory committee come and they help get people to come in and show them how to register for it. We have student vaccinators that help us that are, most of them are EMTs and they're very professional, very good at what they do.
Derek Smith:Got to get people vaccinated here for what's-
Sharon Stern:That's it. That's important.
Derek Smith:You mentioned, I mean, I can relate to the fact that I think I'm that much more likely if the flu shot comes to me, or at least the reminder of it. How important for Baylor Health Services is that outreach? Obviously, you can't take everything where the students are, but kind of getting front and center, top of mind.
Sharon Stern:So I think it's very important and we've done it. We've done a whole lot in the past. And what we've found is that there's certain buildings that have a lot of foot traffic, and we usually do a lot better at those locations. We have done that. We have taken the COVID vaccine out in '21. We did that.
Derek Smith:Yes, I remember that. Yes.
Sharon Stern:Did mobile COVID vaccine clinics, and we did some mass immunization clinics as well. I think it's very important for the students to see us outside of the building to see that we're trying to reach out to those students who don't come to see us in the SLC. And I think it lets them know who we are and kind of puts a face to a name.
Derek Smith:And you mentioned you have, you say, was it student ambassadors that you described them as?
Derek Smith:Tell us about them.
Sharon Stern:So we have students who are, most of them are either medical humanities or public health students, and they're interested in public health, and this is something that they feel passionate about. And some of them are on our student health advisory committee, and they will go and just encourage students, this is a good thing to do. And one of the reasons we encourage college students to get the flu shot is to help protect all of the people around them that may be more susceptible to serious illness. So yes, it protects the student, but it also protects the community and especially the elderly and those who have ongoing medical problems, that puts them at higher risk.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Sharon Stern. Well, Dr. Stern, as we head into the final couple of moments here, I want to ask you if parents or students have questions, what are some ways they can connect with you and what are some ways that are most helpful to get the information either that they need or to get to the right place?
Sharon Stern:So our website is helpful, and that is baylor.edu/healthservices.
Derek Smith:Easy enough.
Sharon Stern:And we have an email address that several people monitor, and that's email@example.com. Those are quick and easy ways to reach us. You can also call (254)710-1010 and find out everything from our student health insurance plan to what our hours are. Most of the information is on our website, including forms that are required.
Derek Smith:That's great. So they can check that out. And if students want to get set up or parents want to help their student get set up, just go to what baylor.edu/healthservices and you can find that there. And then those others have questions.
Sharon Stern:And for students who want to go ahead and make an appointment online, which most of our students do this, they really appreciate that because at midnight when they're feeling terrible, it's kind of good to know that, "Yeah, oh, I made an appointment for nine o'clock in the morning. I can get there and be seen." They can go to healthcenter.baylor.edu and that takes them directly to a Duo login and to the health portal.
Derek Smith:That's great. They can [inaudible 00:21:53] there. Log in to get there.
Derek Smith:Great. Wonderful. Well, Dr. Stern, really appreciate you taking the time to be with us today. Thanks for sharing and for the work that you and your team do here.
Sharon Stern:Of course. Thank you.
Derek Smith:Great to visit with you, Dr. Sharon Stern, Medical Director in Baylor University Health Services, our guest today on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. Reminder, you can hear this and other programs online at baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connection.