By Radhika Viswanathan
The western corner of Roosevelt Hall, which exits on to Bedford Avenue, is regularly visited by only a few groups of people: campus newspaper editors who have offices there, musicians en route to their practice rooms and the medical professionals who work at Brooklyn College’s Health Clinic.
“I’ve heard some students say that the BC Health Clinic is one of the bestkept secrets on campus,” said Ilene Tannenbaum, a women’s health nurse practitioner and the director of the clinic.
The clinic, which is located in 114 Roosevelt Hall, has about 6,000 patient visits every year. Its staff consists of physician assistants, nurse practitioners, a collaborating physician, a medical assistant, a higher education case manager (who helps students with social services), and a nurse midwife, among others. According to the Health Clinic’s website, it was specifically set up so that “Brooklyn College students may receive evaluation and treatment for acute and chronic medical conditions as well as guidance on practices that promote good health and disease prevention.”
Funded by student activity fees—currently $20 from daytime students and $10 from night students—the clinic provides a wide range of primary care services free of charge for both graduate and undergraduate students. And at a time when the affordability of medical insurance is in question, the clinic is a source of health care equity on campus.
“Many are surprised to hear we don’t charge fees or copayment or that we don’t bill insurance companies,” Tannenbaum said. “There is plenty of reason to worry about loss of protections from insurers against pre-existing conditions, out-of-pocket spending caps, and subsidies for low-income individuals and families to get coverage… The clinic provides the same high level of services to those who have insurance and those who don’t.”
The clinic is especially useful for students who don’t have insurance, whatever reason it may be. “They’re super helpful; super easy to drop by. So grateful for them,” said Brooklyn College student Kayla Elberg. “Especially since I’m [an international student] and American health care is super confusing, the clinic is much easier.”
The list of services the clinic provides is long and diverse and can be found on the Services page of the website. Students who have visited the clinic have reported that it is especially useful for filling out medical paperwork and getting STI screenings, pain medication, feminine products, prescriptions, and emergency care.
“I used it when I got hit by a car on my way to school,” said Noam Swisa, a student at Brooklyn College. “I was able to get my leg checked out and ACE bandaged, a referral for an x-ray, and still get to class on time. They are honestly such angels in there.”
By and large, the most popular feedback about the clinic was regarding the psychiatric services. “I had overdosed on Lexapro in an attempted suicide, and with their help and the help of a doctor who helps run the personal counseling center, I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance,” said Athalie Vanloo, a Brooklyn College student. “Rachel [Maki], the Psychiatric NP made me extremely comfortable.”
Recounting her experience, Vanloo continued, “They turned a stressful situation into one that was hopeful and optimistic. They also sent me to one of the best hospitals in the country where I received great service.”
Students can also receive vaccines from the clinic. “We keep a number of vaccines in stock, primarily those offered to us by the Department of Health,” said Tannenbaum. “This includes the state-mandated MMR, and when available, others they are willing or able to give us for free.”
It is recommended that students regularly check what vaccines are available, as the clinic often receives the vaccines close to their expiry date. And despite the anti-vaccine rhetoric that has permeated the media, Tannenbaum emphasized that students should ensure they are vaccinated.
“By getting vaccinated, people not only help reduce their own risks of disease, they contribute to the wellbeing of their family members, friends and neighbors, who may be at greater risk for complications should they get sick,” she said. “It is important people understand they cannot catch the diseases vaccines are designed to prevent.”
As a campus institution, the Health Clinic has provided students with invaluable care. It remains open throughout the Winter Intersession and the summer break.
“We really do love caring for students,” Tannenbaum said. “And that’s why we make sure we’re here for you.”